Wes Anderson is usually too uptight. Not in this hotel
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Director Wes Anderson’s movies are sometimes the subject of snide comments. Fair enough: his films are uniformly, almost impossibly, gorgeous and stylish, but they tend to be airtight to the point of suffocating. His elaborate setups have a tendency to overpower any sense of humanity, and the result can be something like the movie equivalent of a beautiful, but musty and sealed, museum. No surprise that hipsters love this stuff.
(Last fall, Saturday Night Live brilliantly parodied Anderson with a trailer for a fake movie called The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders, about a gang of quirky, affected murderers stalking a peculiarly disaffected family. It’s great. Google it.)
The Grand Budapest Hotel starts down the same rigid path, but generous portions of authenticity and humanity suffuse the proceedings — and the result is Anderson’s most accomplished film to date. Without venturing too far from the things that make a Wes Anderson film a Wes Anderson film, the American auteur allows himself to try a few new things. An action sequence in his trademark style, for example, is a joy to watch.
The film takes place in four different timelines, the main one being the early 1930s. M. Gustave (a genial Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the Grand Budapest, runs the establishment like a tightly wound clock. His efficient and personal approach is a bigger attraction than the hotel itself: Gustave takes pride in his job, but allows himself certain liberties, like bedding the elderly guests.
Two factors conspire to bring down Gustave: he’s a suspect in the murder of his octogenarian lover, and a totalitarian regime curiously similar to the Nazis is on the rise. The concierge’s only ally is the lobby boy he’s just hired, who’s far more resourceful than he seems.
A battle of wits against brute force and inhumanity ensues.
The heroes of The Grand Budapest Hotel are infinitely likeable, forcing the audience to become invested in their destiny — and it doesn’t hurt that Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody are brilliantly dastardly.
While Anderson’s films are often funny, his comedic instincts have never flown as high as in here — and he does it visually as well.
It’s a uniquely merry spectacle with a bittersweet ending. You’ll remember this one for a long time.