The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most Wes Anderson movie Wes Anderson has ever made. It’s his most idiosyncratic film yet and also the second slam-dunk at the peak of his career. The niche he carved for himself is expanding as the carvings become more defined and distinctive. If you look at one frame from his films, you can recognize who made it. With his new film, you can see the same frame blurred out and still recognize it is from a Wes Anderson movie.
Usually, Wes Anderson gets in his own way when it comes to his movies being accessible to casual filmgoers. Not this time. This is a fantastic adventure between an hotelier and his lobby boy, which also becomes prison break story. It obviously is hilarious.
While watching this delicious motion picture, I had this nagging thought pestering me: “If only Johnny Depp took the lead role”. Johnny Depp was supposed to do the role that eventually went to Ralph Fiennes. He has made many blunders in his career choices recently but this one ranks the highest. As the film progressed, that feeling flew away into oblivion. Ralph Fiennes doesn’t just nail it; he pretty much gives the best performance of his career. (Did someone say Schindler’s List?) Who thought he would be able to boast such comic timing, not just competently but expertly.
Some typical Wes actors make appearances. Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and the one that made me happiest – Owen Wilson. Jeff supercool Goldblum gave me the biggest laugh with his fingers. Willem Defoe and Adrien Brody are funnily fierce. Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognizable. It’s always heartening to see F. Murray Abraham on screen. Albeit, the film belongs to the two leads – M. Gustave and Zero. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori take the biggest bite out of the cake.
The first thing that caught my eye is the production design by Adam Stockhausen. It’s like he built a house full of delectable confectionary. I wanted to eat the scenery, sometimes. I love how European this film is. It’s set in the 1930s in the fictional country of Zubrowka. All the varied languages of Europe are used to create a whole new version of it. It takes more than one viewing to absorb all the details of the rich art direction. I could go on about each set and bore the living daylights out of you and hence, that fate shall be avoided. But I must add that the color pink is most gorgeously used and the aspect ratio shifts from the present to the past is cheekily inventive.
If I have to single out one thing from this beautiful film, it would be the score by Alexandre Desplat. I could not concentrate while watching the film because I was almost getting distracted by the arrestingly stunning music. Mr. Moustafa/ Zero’s theme is fantastic but what caught my ear and still hasn’t let go is - A Prayer For Madame D, and all its variations attached to the Family Desgoffe und Taxis. This is a master class in film scoring, period.
When Martin Scorsese was asked whom he thinks is his successor. He did not pick the obvious Tarantino, neither did he pick the Coens or P.T. Anderson. He picked Wes Anderson. I feel it’s because he is a true original. You can’t find these visuals in any other film even when The Grand Budapest Hotel has some Ernst Lubitsch traces. In the same way, Moonrise Kingdom has touches of Hal Ashby, Truffaut and Godard. Not only does he not lazily borrow from other films, he makes sure nobody is capable of imitating him. His films are literally copy-proof. Name one film or maker who has made a Wes Anderson-esque film. You simply can’t.
I probably mentioned more about the filmmaker than the film in this review. This is not because I appreciate the film less. It’s because this is where the film rises above the maker. Exactly when you recognize who is responsible for it. He is at his peak right now and it would be a pity no to acknowledge it.
If you’ve never seen a film by him, this is not a good place to start but it is probably the only place to start. This is his litmus test. If you don’t like it, you won’t like his other films. If you love this movie, you’re into him. Instantly watch The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Rushmore (1998) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
For the initiated, this motion picture is a grand celebration of filmmaking and everyone is invited to check in. It effervescently oozes of Wes-ness. Most importantly, it is flat-out hilarious. The Grand Budapest Hotel is not just a masterstroke but also a bona fide contemporary classic. It is simply the best film of 2014 I have seen so far.