Review: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Where was I?

The last thing I wrote was a review of Non-Stop, that Liam Neeson movie that everyone already forgot existed — maybe because a more intense, less-brain dead airplane drama has since occurred in the real world.

I haven’t posted anything since then, mostly because I constantly had to write about movies for grades and the last thing I wanted to do after finishing an eight-page paper on American Independent Cinema is sit down and —

Why am I explaining myself to you? I don’t have to do that.

I don’t even know who you are.

Anyways, just because I was too lazy to write doesn’t mean I was too lazy to see a bunch of movies that came out. Believe it or not, I even had feelings about them. So, with no more classes to distract me from my insatiable, generation-specific desire to have my opinions seen by anonymous internet people, I guess I’ll go back to one of the most notable movies I’ve seen since, The Grand Budapest Hotel

It’s a Wes Anderson movie. There’s your goddamn review.

No, but seriously, if you’ve seen one of his movies before, you could write a review on this one without even seeing it and probably be hilariously accurate. Not that I would ever do that. I actually did see this movie.

The trailers suggested that The Grand Budapest Hotel would be the most Wes Anderson movie Wes Anderson ever Wes Andersoned, with EVEN MORE CAST MEMBERS and EVEN MORE COMPOSITIONAL SYMMETRY, as well as EVEN MORE DEADPAN DELIVERY. And, yeah. That’s pretty much all true.

I was kind of worried beforehand that Wes (can I call him Wes?) would finally outdo himself to the point where the whole thing would feel like a self-parody of his own movies. What I didn’t expect was that, in addition to delivering everything that those people who dress up as Tenenbaums for Halloween would ever want, The Grand Budapest Hotel somehow manages to be his most accessible movie yet. The often vulgar and slapstick comedy is funnier, the pacing is so quick it’s almost exhausting, and despite taking place mainly in the 1930s, the characters feel more tangible than in many of Anderson’s films that take place in the modern day.

This is mostly due to a cast that seems to get better and better with every Anderson movie they’re in. If Bill Murray’s Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic felt like a character who belonged to some distant era, than Ralph Fiennes’ Gustave H. is a character that feels ahead of his time, like he would be well-suited to a world of Apple, J. Crew and Snapchat. He brings the period piece to life with recognizable wit, emotion, and flaws. The rest of the cast are also at the top of their comedy game, especially Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and Jeff uh Goldblum.

Unfortunately, Anderson does eventually give in to his worst impulses and scrambles to include pretty much everyone he has ever collaborated with. The huge number of actors means that many of them are relegated to simple cameos. I saw the film in a packed theater at a college town, and the audience ate up every appearance — for example, Bill Murray got a round of applause…just for showing up! It’s strange to see a film where a lot of the humor comes from direct knowledge of the director’s past work, and while in principle I don’t mind it, I found the incessant cameos to be distracting and superfluous. It takes time away from those that should be getting more screen time, like Saoirse Ronan, who remains an awfully underdeveloped character.

But, of course, the real star of the show is not any of these actors but Anderson’s meticulous sets, his most intricate and imaginative since The Life Aquatic. It also happens to be his most aesthetically diverse movie, zipping from one location to the next. I assumed we’d see a lot of specific details of the hotel, kind of like moving through Steve Zissou’s submarine or the train in The Darjeeling Limited, but I was surprised by how little of the film actually takes place in the hotel that it’s named after. Yet, I didn’t mind the constant change of scenery one bit.

Those who just don’t like the very specific ways Wes tells his stories will likely hate Budapest’s plot. It is his most needlessly indulgent, with a strange story-within-a-story bookending device, and a few scenes which, while funny, seem completely tangential. I was often annoyed by this, feeling like Anderson came up with a very simplistic story and did whatever he could to make it seem more complex. A lot of people, of course, will love what he’s come up with this time. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Budapest is already his highest grossing movie, as well as one of his most critically-acclaimed. I don’t agree with those who say it’s his best film yet (nothing beats Rushmore in my opinion), but hey, Anderson never has never been someone who’s been able to draw a common consensus on his work.

In summation:

It’s a Wes Anderson movie. There’s your goddamn review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

– Sam

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