By Jeffrey Robinowitz, Staff Writer ||
If you’ve seen one Wes Anderson film, you’ve seen them all. On the other hand, if you’ve seen one Wes Anderson film, you’ll want to see them all. The Grand Budapest Hotel is not the exception to the rule. It’s another romp through a wacky world from the mind of Anderson, who proves time and time again that no one really loves making movies more than he does. Nothing about this film will dramatically reshape your perceptions of him, film, or life itself, but, like all of his work, you’ll never have more fun from an equally meticulous piece of art.
One of Anderson’s most consistently pleasing qualities is his ability to utilize famous actors coached by experts ( learn about the coach) in remarkably inconsistent ways. Getting actors like Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, and a number of other actors most well-known for dramatic roles to do crazy stuff like chase each other down ski slopes and escape from prison is not only great because the acts themselves are entertaining but because these actors seem so out-of-place doing it. Watching people punch each other in the face is funny enough, but it’s even better when it’s Academy Award winner Adrien Brody and Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe doing it.
The film as a whole is also remarkably funny. The writing is sharp throughout, with the lines delivered by Hotel Concierge and main character Monsieur Gustave H. (played by Fiennes) as the standouts. His overly dramatic and rather pretentious pontifications are second only to the ridiculous outburst of swears that pop up from time to time. In addition to the dialogue, the premise and set pieces of the film further guarantee the quality of the comedy. As I mentioned above, daring ski chases and prison escapes are matched with absurd shootouts and train rides. The film moves from place to place at a solid pace and the humor never lets up.
Of course, one cannot get through a review of a Wes Anderson film without talking about the mise-en-scene (that’s sets, costumes, props, and lighting for you yokels). As always, Anderson’s trademark style of elaborate production design is in full effect here. Every set is more extravagant than the last, every costume is wildly hilarious, and every prop looks like something straight out of the 1930s (the time period of the majority of the film’s events) as if it were raining paint one day instead of water.
However, it’s not enough to merely say that the film has Anderson’s classic eccentric design, for that would seemingly discredit the talent at work. Yes, the production may be outlandish, but it all adds to the enjoyment of the film. The film’s central MacGuffin serves its purpose in the plot but also allows for some nice moments; the strictly black costume (plus missing front teeth) belonging to Dafoe’s character makes him Anderson’s most chilling villain yet; and even the Grand Budapest Hotel itself, as undeniably ostentatious as it is, perfectly complements the joyous and optimistic outlook of its
The Grand Budapest Hotel is neither Wes Anderson’s best film nor his most approachable. Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox are superior films both in their overall quality and how enjoyable they are to mainstream audiences. With that said, this new piece of work by Anderson is still an immensely well-made film, and, while those unfamiliar with his work may still find the odd characters and unique storytelling structure a bit off putting, the level of pleasure derived from the sheer insanity of the world and seeing some great actors in totally expected roles are universally satisfying. This film won’t be the one to break Wes Anderson out of his indie star status, but, at this rate, the indie film world doesn’t ever want to see him go.
First-year Jeffrey Robinowitz is a staff writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.