Wes Anderson’s newest movie, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is a fast-paced, bizarre, slapstick-type comedy drama. It’s basically a series of comical and over-the-top scenes and conversations filled with a star-studded cast of Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Jason Schwartzman, Saoirse Ronan, and more. This is not your traditional film and it does not disappoint. But at the same time, it’s not for everyone, as it is extremely out of the ordinary.
The movie begins as a young writer, played by Jude Law, narrates the story as if he is reading a novel and describes his time at The Grand Budapest Hotel in Europe. He soon meets the hotel owner, Mr. Zero Moustafa (played by Abraham), and Mr. Moustafa recounts his time as a lobby boy at the hotel during the war and his adventures with an eccentric and storied concierge, M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). The audience is treated to a series of long, humorous flashbacks of young Zero (played by Tony Revolori) and his mentor and friend, Gustave H. While working together at the hotel, Zero and his friend find themselves wrapped up in a murder case and battle for a large family fortune.
At first glance, I have to admit it took me a few minutes to really get into this film, and not until I had time to reflect on it, did I begin to appreciate what it has to offer. Director Wes Anderson uses a unique style in his films, and if you’ve seen his other works like “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” etc., then “The Grand Budapest Hotel” comes as no surprise. Many of his presentations feature made up, idiosyncratic characters living in fictional parts of the world that find themselves in peculiar situations, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is no exception. Added to Anderson’s style is his cartoon-like, wacky comedy similar to a dark and intricate version of Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin and others alike.
This film is filled with many well-known actors, as most of Anderson’s films are. The most notable performance is from Ralph Fiennes, who shines in his first major comedic role. Through the use of complimentary interactions with other characters and the specific style of humor he presents here, Fiennes gives the best performance of the movie. His character is very odd and upbeat, and his dry, comedic commentary and the situations he finds himself in are quite enjoyable. Similar to the rest of the film, the story is exciting on its own, but plays second fiddle to the unusual and amusing characters. Not all of the recognizable actors play large roles, but each person has their part to play to create an overall delightful presentation to watch for many reasons.
Aside from the characters, the humor stems from other elements of the film as well. People start off very sophisticated and well-spoken, then follow it up and undercut their statements with vulgar or over-the-top comments. The interactions between characters are often strange, and their actions and remarks are very childish at times. Similarly, watching a chase or pursuit is reminiscent of watching a cartoon. The music used is just as excessive as anything else in the movie and matches each scene to compliment the mood or action. All of this and more create a mostly laughable (in a good way) and pleasurable experience.
There are a few decent camera shots of backgrounds, scenery, etc., but a lot of it doesn’t look real, similar to a movie like “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” where a good amount of the film uses obvious sets, fake backgrounds, miniatures, etc., for cars, scenery, buildings, and other objects. I’d normally say that with today’s technology, I would much rather prefer the filmmakers do their best to make the movie look real (or use special effects), but if there was ever a feature film to present this style, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” pulls it off. These sets and backgrounds are just part of the abnormal viewing experience. In the end, the story comes full circle and shows how Mr. Moustafa ultimately gained control of the hotel through his long and exciting friendship with Gustave.
In this time of year, decent to better quality films are few and far between, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" definitely makes a statement. It's very different than most films and heavily focuses on characters, dialogue and character interactions without using a whole lot of up to date special effects and technology. If you're a fan of Wes Anderson, any of the actors mentioned above, or are simply looking for a fresh cinematic experience, then I encourage you to check out this film. You can find it in select theaters this weekend. Enjoy the movies!
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is rated R for language, some sexual content and violence. Running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.