INTRODUCTION. It goes without saying that many film viewers have already made up their minds about going to see The Grand Budapest Hotel based on experiences with its director’s distinct mode and strong track record (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, etc). Which leaves me the task of either reinforcing such intent, or convincing the uninterested that Wes Anderson’s latest creation is worth the price of a ticket.
STORY. The plot is presented in the format of a tale told within a tale, told within another tale. I promise you that this is actually quite straightforward – possibly the most straightforward thing about the story, which revolves around dearest M.Gustave and his bell boy Zero. The unlikely pair are thrown into a rip-roaring adventure through east Europe when one of the hotel’s regular clients is found dead in her home under especially suspicious circumstances. I must say that this is probably one of Anderson’s most violent films – nothing to equal a Hollywood bloodbath but surprisingly explicit in spite (or due to) his charismatic style of storytelling.
I honestly think that The Grand Budapest Hotel will be particularly attractive to those less inclined to the likes of Moonrise Kingdom or The Darjeeling Limited. What we have here isn’t so much an escapade as it is a biographical epic. Action! Adventure! Mystery! Romance! And at it’s heart, something indescribably earnest.
CHARACTERS. Yikes. Seems like everybody and their mother was billed for this movie. There is a huge ensemble cast and most characters, excepting a handful of the protagonists, receive only glancing (but affectionate) attention from the main narrative. It contributes to the epic nature of the story and the overall dynamic between characters is less intimate than in Anderson’s past productions. As always, there is the playful and purposeful use of stereotype – challenging audience expectations through various extents of hyperbole or subtlety. It would be difficult to leave the cinema without some affection for the heroes of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Ahoy! Slight spoilers here. I mention a lack of intimacy in character dynamic above but let me elucidate: there is unquestionably a sense of intimacy running between certain personas of the film. Far from being apparent in the ongoing narrative, it transcends the barriers of ‘a tale within a tale’ as M. Gustave‘s story is told retrospectively through the eyes of his faithful protégé. I am enamoured by their rapport.
CONCLUSION. The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t an institution – it’s a way of life. Brilliant stuff and altogether worth watching on the silver screen.
P.S. I saw this film via one of Secret Cinema‘s event preview screenings. I highly recommend them if you love both cinema and theater.
STORY: 9/10 CHARACTERS: 8/10 REWATCH FACTOR: 7.5/10 OVERALL: 8.5/10