The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most ambitious, spectacular, complex, and mature film Wes Anderson has ever made. It's a Masterpiece.
That’s quite a mouthful, I know. I’m still struggling to find a way to properly categorize this film, and failing miserably. There is no easy way to describe it, and that in itself, is awesome and welcome.
The story is essentially about Gustave H., Master Concierge of The Grand Budapest, mentoring his apprentice Lobby Boy, Zero. It’s also about death, stolen works of art, immaculate pastries, lost wills, secret societies, sex, love, war, and the passage of time.
For those looking for a more linear explanation of the central plot, I refer you to almost any other review of the film. I really think the less you know going in, the more this wonderful box of mystery will reveal to you. But that’s me. I think the trailer sums it up nicely.
The film is also a splendid mix of live action photography , stop motion photography, and slightly less traditional animation. In addition, he also plays with the film's Aspect Ratio. We start in present day at full widescreen(1.85:1), and as the story reaches further into the past, the picture eventually reduces to Academy standard (1.375:1).
The cast is a who’s who of Anderson’s past films (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton) as well as a fresh assortment of new performers, including Ralph Fiennes, last seen hiding behind layers of make-up in the Harry Potter films. Fiennes delivers a magnificent performance as a dashing, charismatic giant of a man who loves his hotel, his guests, his pastries, and his cologne. Also along for the ride are F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, and Saoirse Ronan.
While this is a little outside the norm for a film review, I’d also like to take a moment a mention the film’s Official Website. Usually tossed off as less then a marketing executive’s afterthought, The Grand Budapest Hotel’s web page sets a new Gold Standard. Granted, the trailer for the film is there, but you will also find clips from the film, B-Roll footage, Original Short Films, and a link to AkademieZubrowka.com, where you can find classes on the fictional country the film takes place in. Go check it out for yourself. Very impressive!
Wes Anderson has slowly built a catalogue of films that not only lend credibility to the Auteur Theory, but have established him as one of the finest American Film Directors working today.
But for all my rambling, it was my wife, Maria, who gave this film it's highest praise. Upon exiting the theater, she turned to me and declared that she wished this two hour film was just the first part, and we still had another four hours to get through. Indeed.
I deeply hope the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences remember this cinematic jewel when it comes time to pass out it’s little statues next year.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is well worth your time.