When it comes to style, one of the most prominent Hollywood names that comes to mind is undoubtedly Wes Anderson. From his detailed, colourful frames to his captivating scripts and fascinating characters, he has truly sets himself apart from most directors out there. Already with movies like Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Rushmore in his repertoire, the director has earned himself quite a fan base, but it wasn’t until 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel that the director finally got the recognition he was long overdue.
Released early 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel captures the story of a quirky and well-spoken hotel concierge with the name of Monsieur Gustave and his lobby boy, Zero, as they navigate life in the once famous hotel. Throw in an inheritance, angry family members, young love, and an impending war, and you get the fantastical world of Wes Anderson.
One of Anderson‘s tropes is the use of the same actors and actresses (more or less) in all of his movies. As such, the film is graced with performances from Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Williem Defoe, this time joined by newcommer Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, and helmed by the spectacle that is Ralph Fiennes.
The cast delivers great performances overall. Not one member of the performances underwhelms or disappoints in any way. But it was ultimately its lead that utterly stole the show to deliver what was, to me, one of the best acting performances last year. There couldn’t have been a better person for the job. Fiennes delivers a Monsieur Gustave that is quirky, intelligent, eloquent, classy, trashy, and hilarious all at the same time. Y’all, Voldemort got jokes. I had never seen this side of the actor and was completely blown away by his performance. It is so true to the character, to a point where it ceases to be acting, and Fiennes is renderred untraceable. Not that award shows should mean much, but the fact that he wasn’t even nominated for an academy Award is still disgusting to me — especially when that last spot went to someone who did not at all deserve it.
Joining Fiennes was newcommer Tony Revolori as Zero, Monsieur Gustave’s right hand man and lobby boy. Revolori definitely impresses in his first leading role in a feature film. He lends Fiennes the necessary support to elevate the movie, and delivers a quality performance himself. He manages to somehow break the barrier of hierarchy between him and Gustave but also maintains it at the same time — and in quite an endearing way. You can’t help but love the kid half an hour in!
The best part about the characters is how individually unique they are. Each has something about him or her that immediately catches the viewers’ attention. But what they all share is a sense of randomness in their speech, made comical by the delivery. And that mostly comes down to the script.
Envisioned by Hugo Guinness, and penned by Anderson himself, the screenplay is not only chock full of hilarious dialogue, but it also has its fair share of enlightening moments, all put so nicely. Seriously, at one point Monsieur Gustave starts to insult everybody, and the entire time all I could think about was how nice it would be to be insulted so eloquently.
This being a Wes Anderson film, his trademarks were very present, most notably his point-of-view shots, deep focus shots, and his tracking shots. The cinematography was astounding as expected, this time with a bit more focus on artwork, particularly in the frames that included scenery external to the hotel.
Anderson‘s usual play with mise en scéne is hard to miss in the movie as well. In fact, it’s made even more obvious through the use of bright colour palettes. The movie is just nice to look at, even if you aren’t really focusing on what’s going on. It’s a big, creamy cake that smothers you with its sweetness. That’s the best way I can put it.
It’s only fitting that a movie of such visual caliber be accompanied by an equally fascinating score. Composed by Alexandre Desplat, the circus-like theme of the score really resonates with the world of the movie and the damatized randomness of the events of the plot. At the 87th annual Academy Awards, Desplat deservingly walked away with a golden statue for his work in the film.
When you’re watching a Wes Anderson movie, it’s incredibly hard to ignore the work on set design, costumes, and hair and make-up. Turning Tilda Swinton from a 54 year-old to an 84 year-old so convincingly is a feat in its own right, but the entire cast looked the part, from Williem Defoe‘s dark exterior to Saoirse Ronan‘s gentle one, to Fiennes‘s high-class, reserved appearance.
Of course, like most films, The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t perfect. For one thing, the movie features a political undertone about Eastern Europe at the brink of Fascist rule that I thought it could have linked just a little bit more to the central plot. The idea does what it is meant to do, but the inclusion itself is at times too arbitrary, even for this movie. Still, there’s no escaping the reality that the film is a sad one, masked by the artistic and aesthetic work of Anderson.
One other thing that bothered me was the clash between the setting and the origin of the characters. The movie is set in 1932, supposedly on a mountain somewhere in East Europe. Yet, not one character had an accent. I can understand if a few people don’t have an accent or if some of the employees/guests of the hotel are foreign to Europe, but every single character being English or American is a bit unrealistic and slightly Orientalist if you ask me. It doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the movie, but it does irk me in some ways.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is, in my eyes, Wes Anderson‘s best work to date. And with a soectacular performance from Ralph Fiennes, supported by a star-studded cast, the beauty that is this film is a work of art that is to be sought, emmulated, and venerated.
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