The Grand Budapest Hotel
Premise: Told through an almost Inception-like layering of voice over narration, a teenage girl reads a book narrated by an older writer who recounts his younger self narrating a story that was originally narrated by an older version of a lobby boy who worked with a world-famous hotel concierge when he was younger. The actors involved in that sentence were Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, and Ralph Fiennes; in that order. It's also the newest Wes Anderson movie, so expect plenty of dry humor, center alignment, and consistent fonts. And as expected, people still write each other hand-written notes in playfully whimsical cursive lettering.
-I've always wondered why Wes Anderson movies never get any awards praise for production design? His films are basically cinematic dioramas. And this latest film was probably his most production design heavy yet. It's pretty remarkable how much detail and effort goes into every set, even if they only appear on camera for less than five seconds. It must be an annoying, yet rewarding experience to be the production designer for these movies. Like spending an entire day setting up a 2000 piece domino display, just to watch it all gloriously do it's thing and be over in but just a few brief moments.
-I enjoyed the return of the dickish patriarchal figure in Ralph Fiennes' M. Gustave. Most of my favorite Wes Anderson moments have come from the destructively absurd mentor/protegé relationships between a "father/son" duo, even if they aren't explicitly related. I mean, isn't the heart of every Anderson movie about someone giving someone else awful advice to their benefit?
-Probably the most story driven of all his films. Let's be honest, most of his movies are just about people wandering around. I DIDN'T SAY THAT WAS A BAD THING.
-Interesting use of different aspect ratios, without feeling gimmicky.
-Harvey Keitel's intentionally bad tattoos were pretty great.
-A twenty person gunfight in a Wes Anderson movie is about as amazing as I expected it to be.
-The animated ski-chase scene was pretty awesome. Read Tim's interview with the VFX guy to learn all the interesting details!
-The almost in-your-face level of tiny cameos of Anderson acting alumni throughout the film surprisingly got distracting, in my opinion. By the time we see Owen Wilson doing a ten second scene in the third act, it just felt like he was throwing the cast in our faces for bragging rights.
-I didn't dislike the soundtrack, but where was our slow-motion tracking shot set to The Rolling Stones? I feel cheated!
-Is Adrian Brody just not even going to try to do an accent?
Final Thoughts: To be honest with you, this was the first Wes Anderson movie I've seen in theaters that I both wasn't extremely excited to see beforehand, nor had anything particularly interesting to say about afterwards. That very well could have just been the result of existing in one of the busier months of my life, but I don't know. I mean, I liked Grand Budapest Hotel plenty, but it wasn't the most exciting blip on the Anderson radar. Following the solid, cult-amassing block of his classic films (Rushmore through Darjeeling), he kept us all engaged with a stop motion animation film (Mr. Fox) and a period piece (Moonrise Kingdom). Grand Budapest Hotel, however, was... what different, exactly? If anything, it's simply an exaggeration on everything about Anderson's style. An entire movie made up of every trademark he's ever done, told at a hyper-accelerated pace. The weird thing is, it doesn't even feel like he's trying to win over any new fans, as if he's just preaching to the slow-motion choir, yet his last three films have been his most broad to date. I went to a 10:40 AM screening that was about half sold out, and featured just about every demographic of audience he could ask for, short of children. I guess I can't complain, though, as I love his style so much that I'd probably enjoy watching him direct a credit card commercial (wait a second...). So as a Wes Anderson fan, I'm convinced that the guy still hasn't done anything I would consider less than a B-, and that's a pretty freakin good filmography in my opinion. I just hope he goes completely out of his comfort zone at some point, like making a sci-fi movie or something. Think of how much Bowie would be on that soundtrack!
8 out of 10
My fave Wes film of them all:
“The Midnight Coterie Of Sinister Intruders”