How 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Helped a Wes Anderson Hater Change (Sorta)
Published: March 19, 2014
Sound exhausting? It is, but once the eyes stop rolling, it all becomes a lark. Anderson and his director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman, go to the trouble of shooting each different time period in the aspect ratio of its era. That means the movie is more or less square in the 1930s and widescreen for the present day. It’s incredibly affected, but it’s also kind of charming. Anderson knows his film history.
Once we’ve met all the players in 1968—Jude Law as Young Writer and the underused F. Murray Abraham as Mr. Moustafa—we go to the past and start moving. In the 1930s, we meet Zero (Tony Revolori, who doesn’t have Anderson’s style of dialogue delivery nailed) and M. Gustave, who is played to the hilt by Ralph Fiennes.
Gustave is the Andersoniest of Anderson characters and, as personified by Fiennes, he is funny, absurd, grotesque and enchanting. Gustave runs the Grand Budapest Hotel in its heydey, and he has sex with lots of old women (like, octogenarian old). They dote on him; he looks after them. Life, like the hotel, is grand.
Then, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), one of Gustave’s lovers, is bumped off. She leaves Gustave a priceless painting, and her rotten son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) accuses Gustave of the murder. Gustave and Zero steal the painting and before long they’re involved in a movie-length chase sequence that has them tailed by Dmitri’s henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe, looking not unlike his Max Schreck character from Shadow of the Vampire); aided by an Irish baker’s assistant (Saorise Ronan); thwarted by war; and stopped by soldiers (including an out of place-ish Edward Norton). Gustave is thrown in prison, only to escape with Zero’s and Harvey Keitel’s help.
Those are sort of spoilers, but they’re sort of not, because everything that happens in the caper section (that is, the 1930s) is predictable. You don’t have to have know Stefan Zweig to know the tropes.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is fun, silly and delightful. Sure, the whip pans get to be a bit much and the 1960s and 1980s sections are superfluous, but if a hater like me can enjoy it, imagine how ga ga the fans will be.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dir. Wes Anderson; writ. Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness (inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig); feat. Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton
Opens March 21 at Santikos Bijou