Wes Anderson‘s films have always both impressed and inspired me. Although with the offbeat humor and often times dark subject matter, you could say they aren’t for everyone. However, I would certainly say they have always been for me. Anderson’s newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, has what you would call an all-star cast. Although my personal favorites were the performances of Edward Norton and Adrian Brody, the highly impressive cast also includes Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, and Sarosie Ronan, just to name a few. Possibly the most intriguing part of the film is the way it was shot – breathtaking scenery, sharp, colorful images, and intricate costumes. The film is brimming with visual humor, including deliberately fake (yet exquisitely detailed) miniatures and, of course, Anderson’s trademark gift for making the most mundane activities look ridiculous. The simple action of riding in an elevator, decorating a pastry, or placing a telephone call is enough to have the audience laughing uncontrollably.
The setting is Europe, in the fictional ‘Republic of Zubrowka’ within a once flourishing hotel, now sparsely populated, ambiguous, and muted. In true Wes Anderson form, there is a story within a story….within a story. The author of a new book entitled ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (Tom Wilkinson) begins the tale in 1985, and peddles back to 1968, when his younger self (played by Jude Law) meets Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), owner of the now-defunct Grand Budapest Hotel. Moustafa agrees, over dinner, to tell the curious young author about how he came to preside over this odd establishment.
Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, is the protagonist of the film, which is narrated by Zero (Tony Revolori), his apprentice and the lobby boy of the hotel. M. Gustave glides through the hotel like he owns the place, complete with perfect posture and a distinct cologne known as eau de panache. His only capital incudes “a set of ivory-backed hair brushes and my library of romantic poetry,” whose contents he can quote extensively at any given opportunity. According to Gustave, his good looks may have fossilized somewhere in middle age — while ruefully glancing at his passport photo, he remarks, “I was once considered a great beauty”. Gustave remains irresistible to the hotel’s endless retinue of “rich, old, insecure, vain, superficial, blond, needy”, and as he explains, “I go to bed with all my friends.” One of these is the 84-year-old Madame Celine (Tilda Swinton), who, Gustave contends, “was dynamite in the sack.” When he learns of her sudden death, he leaves immediately for her castle. When he sees her lying inside her decadent casket, he delivers my favorite line of the film – “You’re looking so well, darling! I don’t know what sort of cream they put on you down at the morgue, but I want some.”
The plot twist is when Gustave learns that Madame Celine has left him her most prized possession, a treasured work of art titled “Boy with Apple”, which is explained to be worth incredible riches; and, in seeing the outrage of Madame’s family members, is assumedly worth more than the entire estate. What follows is a highly dramatic fight to the death for this painting, which Gustave and Zero steal from the home of Madame Celine, and stow away in the Grand Budapest Hotel. The film continues on, peppered with irony, playful cynicism, and whimsical cameos from the likes of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson. I hesitate to give more away, even though I do believe that no matter how many reviews or summaries you’ll read about this film, nothing compares to the big screen.Wes Anderson movies are all about the little quirks, the understated moments that we all experience in everyday life, only Anderson exaggerates them perfectly.
By the end of the film, as an audience member you’re not particularly incredibly happy nor supremely sad. You don’t cry, crack, or shake – this film isn’t meant to be emotionally overwhelming or cause you to be fabulously happy, as many today do. No, I found that the feeling is much different. You leave the theater, perhaps a little melancholy, and slowly begin the readjustment to a world in which the characters are less exuberant and the colors more muted. The composition of the world is not what you had adjusted yourself to for the last few hours. But that’s what’s truly beautiful about Wes Anderson’s work – it is always an escape that makes you reconsider your own reality.