Man, Wes Anderson; you surely and clearly don’t give a flying fuck what people think of your films. Or, rather, your filmmaking style, to be more precise. Wes Anderson’s films somehow manage to be all the same, and yet they are all different, but none of them are as clearly enjoyable to just about any possible viewer as The Grand Budapest Hotel. This is the film that finally got Anderson an Oscar nomination for Best Director, and it’s damn easy to see why; for this film, Wes Anderson decided to go all Wes Anderson on himself, Wes-Andersoning his direction to the umpteenth degree, creating a Wes Anderson-ception effect. But still, when the result of such an act is this, to use the most appropriate word possible, delectable, then I’m perfectly willing to give Wes Anderson all the liberties he is requesting.
Befitting the Wes-Anderson-ception moniker I used above, the film’s plot is nested like a Russian doll. We open on a young girl in a cemetery who walks up to a monument of an author, then opens a book by the author with the same title as the film and begins reading. Cue flashback to 1985, where we enter in on the Author who describes how he wrote the book after a visit to the eponymous fictional eastern-European hotel in 1968. Cue flashback to 1968 where we meet the young Author (who narrates), who finds himself invited to dine with the long-time owner of the now-fading hotel, Zero Moustafa, who decides to answer the author’s inquiries as to how he became the owner of the hotel and why he is still there. Cue flashback to 1932, where we finally meet our central players: M. Gustave, played by a delightfully irreverent Ralph Fiennes, the well-regarded concierge of the hotel Grand Budapest, and the young Zero, who has recently become the hotel’s new lobby boy (complete with Lobby Boy cap), and who is swiftly taken under Gustave’s wing. Gustave ends up being framed for the murder of a wealthy aristocratic woman whom he, um, befriended, and who left him a valuable painting in her will, which draws the ire of the woman’s remaining family, particularly her son Dmitri. The rest of the film is a fluff-filled creampuff of an escapade for Gustave and Zero as they try to set about proving Gustave’s innocence, and each layer of the matryoshka doll that is the film’s narrative is resolved in turn. Really, for as big as that plot summary was, though much of it was an admitted tongue-in-cheek reference to the film’s narrative structure, there’s very little of substance that happens in this film. Well, actually, I can be even more broad; there’s very little of substance in this film, period. It is all confectionery, having you as a viewer eat all the frosting off the cake that is the film only to find even more frosting underneath. Now, normally, in the past, when I’ve described a film as all frosting and no cake, it’s been a slightly negative attribute, implying there’s nothing of real worth to the film in question. In all fairness, there’s not a whole lot of worth to The Grand Budapest Hotel either, but it’s just so gosh-darned enjoyable that the lack of substance really doesn’t matter or play a factor into the equation at all. Anderson’s frequent use of miniatures cheerfully add to this effect, implying a childlike whimsy to the proceedings, even as the characters make excellent use of Anderson’s at-times self-contradictory script, using the jarring nature of the slightly-incongruous-of-the-time-and-characters dialogue to great comedic effect more often than not. Especially Ralph Fiennes, who was positively daffy pretty much 100% of the time. And of course, Anderson’s weirdly symmetrical and rectangular compositions, which are even more so as much this time around as they have ever been in a Wes Anderson film.
I think I wasted everything I had to say about Wes Anderson and his newest fanciful delight of a film already, even though what I said wasn’t really a whole lot. And there you have it; The Grand Budapest Hotel in a nutshell. I did think fairly hard, though, about what rating to give the film, before I decided to be nice and give it the rating I ultimately wanted to give it. Even with that, however, there will of course be people that this film, and really all of Wes Anderson’s films, just aren’t for, and watching the other Anderson films I’ve watched, it can be understandable why these people think this way. But not when watching The Grand Budapest Hotel. This is just such an enjoyable watch that you’d pretty much have to have a heart of solid concrete to not find something to like about it. I should know; I’ve often worried about having a heart of stone myself, but it’s films like this one that serve as a nice refreshing reminder not to take absolutely everything too seriously. Give this a watch; if you like it, great, if not, I guess I can’t blame you. But your cinematic palette must be pretty limited indeed if this doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, at the very least.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10
That’s it for 2014. Thanks for sticking around, and future thanks to anyone who visits in the meantime before the next edition comes out. See y’all next year.