Movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson (screenplay & story), Hugo Guinness (story), inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig
Fox Searchlight, 2014
R; 100 mins
5 stars (out of 5)


Watching a Wes Anderson movie is sort of like falling into Wonderland. There are a lot of colors and a lot of strange characters and an oddly literary bent to everything. It is mesmerizing and entertaining, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is yet another entry in Anderson's catalogue of oddities. Or odysseys. Depending on how you look at it.

The tale is narrated in a fashion that at once reminded me of Watson describing his adventures with Holmes. And the story itself is an adventure of sorts. From the outside, a story about how Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) ended up as owner of the titular hotel might not sound very exciting. But I think we all know Wes Anderson better than that. And so there is the labyrinth of plot to wind through, the story of how Moustafa (first name Zero) started at the hotel as Lobby Boy under one M. Gustave (Fiennes in grand form) at the outset of WWII.

[My son asked me prior to my going to the movie what it was about. I said, "A hotel in Budapest, I guess. Though, knowing the writer/director, I'm willing to bet the hotel isn't actually in Budapest anyway." Yeah, that.]

Bonus for use of Fisher Stevens in a cameo. Most of the other cameos were more or less expected, but this one was a pleasant surprise.

It's been a long time since I've attended a movie during which everyone laughed and cheered—and this is counting many recent blockbusters; not even Star Trek got such a reaction from viewers when I went last spring, and it used to be one could count on the appearance of the Enterprise at least getting applause. Now we've become so used to these things, the superheroes and so forth, they no longer amaze us or win us over. It takes something completely different to surprise and delight us, and The Grand Budapest Hotel did it. At least for the cinema I was in.

One could argue that Anderson's movies are all kind of the same, and they are. They all have similar looks and feels, that cast of quirky characters and so on. It's his trademark. And yet . . . One goes into a Wes Anderson movie knowing what to expect in one way (tone) . . . And never knowing what to expect in another (story). And that in itself is quite a feat. Maybe that's why I continue to enjoy his films so much.

1 comment:

Christine Rains said...

Not many movies grab my attention during the commercials anymore, but I really want to see this one. Glad you enjoyed it. The last Wes film I saw was the one about the kids. It was so absolutely strange and enchanting.