Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel review

The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite 'grand'. Although I am trying to be funny and use a pun with the movie's title, it's still a fairly accurate thing to say. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's most ambitious movie to date. It's grand in its scale and vision. It has a large and epic story, spanning years, yet feeling very small indeed. The film is like some strangely wonderful adventure film that one would get if they were to mix North By Northwest and The Thomas Crown Affair and then stick it in Wes Anderson's subconscious. It succeeds on all counts. Mainly because of the artistic genius of writer/director Wes Anderson. Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers. I put him up there with greats like Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Woody Allen. He's great at capturing quirky little slices of life somewhere, and then infusing it with his wonderfully distinct style I've come to know so well. I love every Anderson film, mostly because of how much I enjoy and appreciate his style. His most critically lambasted film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, is actually one of my favorites. Partially because of how evident his style is in it, and partially because I felt it had so much to say. Too often, Wes Anderson's movies are called 'light' or 'fun but meaningless'. This couldn't be further from the truth. Every one of his movies has tons to say. The Grand Budapest Hotel has a lot to say. But it's also really entertaining, incredibly well made, imaginative, and filled with that awesome Anderson style. The film starts out with a young girl opening a book titled "The Grand Budapest Hotel". Then it shows an old writer, played by Tom Wilkinson, talking about his time at the hotel. Then it goes to years earlier. The writer is much younger (now being played by Jude Law), and talks to the hotel's owner named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) about his time at the hotel in its prime and how he came to own it. So begins the expansive and exciting tale of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and a young Zero throughout pre-war Europe. Involving murder, intrigue, love, art thievery, prison break, and of course, The Grand Budapest Hotel in all of its Anderson-esque glory. As you may be able to tell, I absolutely loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. I may even call it Wes Anderson's best film to date. Here, Anderson has crafted a pitch perfect and wonderful film that is so much fun to watch. But it's also about pre-war troubles and fear, love, and imagination. What's really great here is Anderson's wonderful sense of ambitious vision. He has created a concise and beautiful world, that isn't actually as beautiful as it looks at second glance. Ominous soldiers, roadblocks, and eerie and murderous strangers (played classically by Willem Dafoe). The world of 'Grand Budapest' is sort of like the hotel itself: Pretty and grand on the outside, with it's own seedy underbelly. Anderson makes it all work so damn well. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has succeeded with everything he failed to do in 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox. Don't get me wrong, I adored both of those movies with all my heart and rank them as some of my favorite films, but every issue they have Anderson addresses and fixes in this picture. The Life Aquatic was ambitious and action packed and made great use out of Anderson's auter style. Yet, the film occasionally dragged and some of the sequences felt off. I loved it, but it wasn't perfect. The Grand Budapest Hotel is as imaginatively and technically ambitious, if not more so, as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. But it's done in a much better and more efficient way. It's character's are also more developed and much more interesting than the other ones in his films. The casting certainly helps. The film is chock full of celebrities with everyone from Jude Law to Tom Wilkinson. It's filled with Anderson regulars like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, and also great actors new to his films like Ralph Fiennes and Jude Law. Ralph Fiennes give's a terrific and commanding performance in the movie's lead. Newcomer Tony Revolori is more than decent as his sidekick. Harvey Keitel shows up for a funny and very entertaining role as a bald and tattooed thug. 'Grand Budapest', while large in scale, also manages to create a small dollhouse type atmosphere that is evident in other Anderson films. But it's done better. It is done very, very well. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the work of an experienced filmmaker who is more creative than all of Hollywood put together. And it is a wholly wonderful film. It would be worth seeing just for Harvey Keitel's small but great performance. Luckily, Anderson adds so much more to see. If you want to rewatch a film, halfway through watching it the first time, it is probably a damn good movie. And yes, I think I do believe this is Wes Anderson's best movie. I am certain this will make my favorite films of the year list, and I highly recommend you see it. If you have already seen it, maybe go see it again. I give The Grand Budapest Hotel 4.8 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing!
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  1. Not Anderson's best, but still his most exciting and fun to date. Good review Whit.

    1. Thanks! I personally think this is Anderson's best. Then again, I haven't watched The Royal Tenenbaums in forever.