The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) (R)

Real humans are hard to find within a Wes Anderson film. When you look back on the eccentric director's career, you will note that people act and talk differently in his movies than anywhere else. His dialogue is dry, he loves wide, sharp angles even more than Kubrick, and he tends to make all his characters feel like a little bit distant. Yet all this works for him somehow. His popularity shouldn't exist—he is far too odd. Previously, you had to love Wes Anderson to go see a Wes Anderson film.
Yet with "The Grand Budapest Hotel" we find a different side to the same, quirky coin. Here, Wes Anderson unleashes his greatest writing so far, his best cast, his most ambitious designs, and he gives us his most cinematic and approachable movie to date...the result is a blinding and joyous success of the first order.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is an ambitious work, one that never falters. It spans over half a century and could only be considered as operatic. The story is something that would be sung about.
It is important to note that through the different time periods, the aspect ratio of the film changes. It varies from filling the screen, to shrinking a little around the edges, to pulling in dramatically, becomming slightly square shaped. Yet this works for the movie. The life of the hotel and the richness of its stories fill the screen, looking back on the years is like looking through a colorful window, and after the stories of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" have faded, we are left a little sad that it's all over.
Beginning with the author of the work, we are thrown around in decades from the 1980s, to the 60s, back to the 30s.
We are introduced to a man who owns the Grand Budapest Hotel, even in its old and dilapidated age. He decides to share his story with a young writer.
We get taken back to the age of splendor when the Grand Budapest Hotel was in full glory. A rapturous building filled to the brim with reds, golds, and purples, the hotel itself is a visual feast—the film itself has a brilliant color scheme, one that never lets your eyes rest.
A lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) is taken under the majestic wing of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) to learn how to better serve the hotel. Being discreet is key and when you consider that most of M. Gustave's bed fellows are older, blonde heiresses—secrecy goes hand in hand with what Zero is taught.
War looms overhead in the film, though the characters are oblivious, which is what gives the film part of its humor. One scene has Zero showing M. Gustave a newspaper. The camera pauses for a moment on the headlines announcing war and pans down to show the death of one of M. Gustave's lovers.
After her death, her family is summoned to read the will and a priceless painting is bequeathed to M. Gustave...that is unacceptable.
M. Gustave and Zero are on an adventure, which is what "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is at its most condensed. Yet just defining the movie as one thing would be a vital mistake. The way it handles the jumps in time, the mastery of its characters, its humor, the plot twists, its dark side—this could be Wes Anderson's finest movie.
Punctuated with a comical score by Alexandre Desplat, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" flawlessly vaults from scene to scene, introducing many characters without overwhelming the viewer.
Amidst the humor, which is abundant, the movie manages to silence the viewer at times with its drama. It is a well-seasoned and fully realized work—the most improbable success.
All the tell-tale signs of a Wes Anderson film are still here, namely the way he films his movies, with the wide, tracking shots that travel from room to room. Yet there was always the sense of the camera being a cold observer in Anderson's previous work and here you manage to forget that you're watching a film.
The cast here is sensational and I would exhaust myself if I could write down every one of the actors present. The finer moments are given to us by F. Murray Abraham as a man looking back on his past and Willem Defoe as a villainous henchmen. Ralph Fiennes steals every scene, yet Anderson makes sure that we realize the movie belongs to Tony Revolori, a virtual newcomer.
Above all that you could praise for the film, Wes Anderson's characters here are his most human and his most empathetic. What the director has managed to do is create one of the most enjoyable, moving, well-acted, virtually perfect film. By far and above, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is one of the best films of the year.
Do yourself a favor. Go see this movie.

Score: ★★★★

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