To see a Wes Anderson movie is to see a celebration of style. In every scene of his films, he presents a diorama of stylish mis-en-scene. It’s clear Anderson brings a lot of attention to detail with his films, from the way actors pose for a scene to what colour the props should look. The only other director who brings as much style into every scene is Baz Luhrmann. While Luhrmann tries to make scene fast paced and flashy, Anderson keeps the tone low key and uses long shots so the audience can take in the environment. Some people argue that Anderson sacrifices the human touch in the process. His low key, slow paced tone can come off as melancholy for some audiences. The Grand Budapest Hotel might just be the film that will have people embracing his work.
The hotel itself is a classy giant pink hotel residing in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. In the 1930’s, it was under the perfumed hands of M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes). He runs the hotel in with an aristocratic and distant manner, even eating alone while the others eat together. He is especially a hit with the old socialites, especially Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). Take a good guess why. The story begins when D. dies and her will leaves Gustave with the priceless painting Boy with Apple. This raises the wrath of D’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), who has Gustave accused of murder for the painting has an incriminating item hidden within it. Soon Gustave finds himself arrested for murder. Now Gustave must try to clear his name and keep the picture away from Dmitri and his fanged henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe).
Gustave’s adventures are seen through the eyes of young lobby boy Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori). Once under Gustave’s wing, Zero learns the philosophy Gustave lives by; “Rudeness is really an expression of fear.” He also assists Gustave in preparation of his endeavors with the elder guests. Gustave takes a liking to him, protecting him when fascist guards try roughing him up. Zero eventually comes to be Gustave’s sidekick when his boss is accused of murder. He helps hide the painting, breaks Gustave out and goes on the chase to clear Gustave’s name. Through Zero’s eyes, Gustave seems a man out of time, even in the 1930’s. He belongs to a time of aristocracy and that’s what elder ladies find attractive about him.
Of all previous Wes Andersons’ movies, this is his most energetic. His films are often so slow paced some audiences have found it dull. Slow paced, this film is not. The film takes on more of a pace of a thriller, with our heroes almost always on the move, trying to achieve one goal after another. And there are more action scenes than the usual Anderson film. Gustave and Zero are both involved in a jail break, hide from authorities with the help of fellow concierges (one of them being Bill Murray) and a ski chase with Jopling. The film even ends in an epic gunfight.
This movie is also Anderson at his most experimental. First, the film has not one, not two but three narrators. There is the classic Anderson opening of the film being told in a book. The writer (Tom Wilkinson) narrates the story from his office. And then the story is narrated by the writer’s younger self (Jude Law) who recalls his time at the hotel in the 1960’s, where he met Zero, now an owner of the hotel. And then it’s Zero (now played by F. Murray Abraham) who tells the film to the writer. Everybody got that? Not only is each time period shot with a different style and colour, but with a different frame. The first three time periods are shot with a different type of widescreen, but the scenes in the 1930s are shot in a square frame, like a silent film.
And yes, the film is very funny. Gustave’s endless dedication to his dignified stance is very funny, especially when he’s in prison. The droll acting is played for laughs, especially Dmitri’s sister’s blasé reaction when Dmitri flips out at finding the Boy with Apple picture goes missing. There’s some dark humour filled in too, including one that begins with a cat thrown out a window and ends with a most unusual form of dismemberment.
This film is as delectable as a Courtesan Au Chocolat. And yes, that is the desert Saoirse Ronan delivers in the film. The settings are delicious feasts for the eyes. The plot is an adventurous thrill ride. The characters are entertaining and loveable and the actors make them very human. This is the Wes Anderson most accessible to the average movie goer and the one most likely to seduce people to his style of film.