The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson (2014).
Score: Endearing and enjoyable.
The Grand Budapest hotel is an utter piece of eye candy. Photography, costumes, make up and hair, and, above all, production design are astonishing, and I’ve never seen anyone so in love with isometric perspective, not even Kubrick. It tells a very simple and fun story, but in a very elaborate and entertaining way.
A girl reads the memoirs of The Author (Tom Wilkinson), who in turn visited the hotel in the late 60s (Jude Law), where he met the owner, Mr. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who in turn tells him the story of how he came to own it, which involves his adventures in the 1930s as the young, inexperienced Zero the lobby boy (Tony Revolori) learning the trade from Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), who happens to have a taste for vain, shallow, rich old ladies. Things get belly up when he’s accused of murdering one of these recently deceased fortune holders.
The story is really quite simple and would be boring as hell if told in a straightforward way, so the nestled stories might look like a whimsical or pointless trope but they actually add up to the depth of the work as a whole. Because in order to appreciate the wonderful production design on the bulk of the movie, the golden age of the hotel, you also need to have seen what it looks like after the war and the sovietisation during the Cold War. The cold, old decadence of the sixties hotel, apart from being endearingly accurate, is a condition to fully enjoy what the hotel will look like later (or earlier, you get the idea). Telling only the story of Gustave and Zero would have been a mistake in the sense that it would not give the whole enough temporal depth.
Outside this, the movie is a fun, little adventure, with a very traditional, cartoonish sense of humour, based mostly on Gustave’s extravagance and Zero’s serious conformity with the silliest situations. The chase scenes from the last third reminded me a lot of the same scenes of the last third of Irma la Douce, though I don’t know if it’s just me, I found this better balanced. Ralph Fiennes is wonderful, with a perfect balance between the dignified and the ridiculous, the campy and the endearing, and it definitely wouldn’t work if Tony Revolori didn’t do this job superbly too.
And what can I say of the cameos? It’s like everyone and their mother wanted to be in this. Apart from the already mentioned actors, we’ve got Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, and these last two are on screen for maybe a minute and have like three lines each, tops. It’s like Victor Ward took over this review for a minute.
All in all, if you’re not one for truly visual and stylised films, where the how and the form are over the what and the content, this film is not for you. But if you are, you’re going to have the time of your life.