Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel
By Matt Patton
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe and over a dozen more notable names
The Grand Budapest Hotel is another chapter in the quirky storybook that Wes Anderson began to craft with 2009’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Since the success of that anthropomorphic, stop-motion caper, Anderson has stepped into his own with the free reign to experiment visually. His last film, Moonrise Kingdom, was a pictorial treat, but some — myself included — felt that it was more style than narrative substance. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a massive stride in the right direction: an entertaining romp encased in a glossy, extravagant shell.
Budapest occurs predominantly inside the confines of a flashback within a flashback within a flashback between WWI and WWII in the fictional European republic of Zubrowka (and that’s putting it simply). Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave H., the head concierge of the titular establishment in the 1930s. His sidekick of sorts is Zero Moustafa, his “lobby boy” and confidant both personally and professionally. The plot itself is concerned with the theft of a valuable painting titled “Boy with Apple” that effectively serves as a MacGuffin turning the wheels of the story forward. Anderson makes an honest attempt here at constructing the closest thing viewers might ever see to a complex suspense movie from him. Portions certainly feel reminiscent of international thrillers from the early days of cinema.
The characters fashioned in The Grand Budapest Hotel by Anderson, who co-wrote the script with Hugo Guinness, are more drenched in his milieu than any of the others in his past filmography. They are thoroughly peculiar and intriguing individually. Each one resembles a cartoon caricature from a forgotten time, complete with his or her own idiosyncrasies and obscure behavior, from Adrien Brody’s obscenity-spouting faux-Nazi commandant to Saoirse Ronan’s innocent baker girl clad with a birthmark shaped like Mexico.
In some ways, The Grand Budapest Hotel occupies dark territory in its tone. However, never before has a film containing decapitations, dismemberment and undertones of genocide and war been so playful and innocent. The lively spirit of Budapest is only aided by the wonderful comedic timing of both the actors and the dialogue they speak. Even the vulgarities contained within the script are delivered with such sweetness that they only spiral into hilarity.
This is the movie Wes Anderson has been building toward his entire career. It incorporates various elements from his past films into a methodical, symmetrical and altogether foreign funhouse that amalgamates his style to the nth degree. This is — both technically and narratively speaking — his best film yet. It’s amazing to think that this guy has nearly half his career ahead of him.
If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson or even just a cinephile to any extent, I cannot recommend this movie enough.