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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW
– THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL –
IMDB Rating: 8.4 out of 10 (53,809 votes)
Director: Wes Anderson
There aren’t many filmmakers like Wes Anderson. Although I’m not overly familiar with all of his work, his 2012 film ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ was my favourite of that year; it’s a big-hearted look at teenage love, family issues and growing up. As bizarre as it is simple, completely admirable in the sense that it never takes itself too seriously but in the end it forces you to consider what it’s saying.
Perhaps it’s not as simple, but Anderson’s new film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, is absolutely true to form. Every shot is composed specifically to intrigue, to portray themes and ideas as succinctly as possible. ‘Grand Budapest’ relishes in captivating beauty, on the surface and beyond. Wes Anderson creates this fascinating, sometimes mythical character for us to indulge in; Ralph Fiennes, perfectly cast as said character, portrays all the mystery and wonderment that M. Gustave personifies. The style of the film, the construction, the ensemble and the craft of it all, it’s absolutely beautiful. A film of the highest order, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is simply delightful.
The film and its characters have this sort of gravity to them. Slowly but surely they’re sucking you in to the story. Ralph Fiennes exerts class and curiosity seamlessly. Tony Revolori, who plays the lobby boy Zero, has his belief totally suspended by Monsieur Gustave H. His whole life seems to take a 180-degree turn when he arrives at the Grand Budapest Hotel, which lies high up in the fictional European alpine state of Zubrowka, But as Zero’s life turns around, so does Gustave’s; around Zero he seems more confident, more wordy, with more of that esteemed air exerted from his sheer appearance in a scene. We are without question happier when Gustave and Zero are united in the frame – the two are a match made in heaven.
The film is much more plotted than ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, at least from what I can remember. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is a film much less concerned with moving the story along and more interested in exploring themes and visual beauty. ‘Grand Budapest’ might have worked the same way if it wanted to, but what we’re given instead is more than satisfying. We take some crazy turns here, some unexpected thrill rides – that is quite literal in one scene involving a crafty stop-motion ski descent down a snowy mountain.
We start with Gustave’s days as concierge at the Grand Budapest in 1932. The lands in and around Zubrowka are quickly becoming ravaged by war. We understand more about Gustave, including his hobby: taking old women to bed. But when a former lover, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), is murdered, suspicion falls on Gustave – she has left a very expensive painting entitled “Boy with Apple” in his name. So what does he do next? He runs, of course. But it is hopeless, and Gustave is soon arrested. What follows can only be described as a mishmash of bizarre circumstances involving an enraged son (Adrien Brody), a cold-blooded assassin (Willem Dafoe), a hardened prisoner (Harvey Keitel), and Zero’s girlfriend Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).
It’s all a little nuts, in that Wes Anderson way, but it works, again true to Anderson’s form. Not once is it predictable, nor too far-fetched. It works in the universe it’s in. Of course, that universe is unabashedly different to much else we see in modern-day cinemas. But boy, does it work. The construction and design of Zubrowka is marvellous – it’s crazy and colourful, everything about it shouts “confectionary on a screen”. Every shot packs a punch. Anderson is wonderful because, among other reasons, even his establishing shots work on another level. A good example is when Zero and Gustave stand on the edge of a mountaintop monastery. The camera starts very far away, but as we hear the two talking, we slowly zoom in until we find our two heroes, standing alone. Not only is it the kind of shot you could frame, put on a wall and call “art”, it shows how these two people live in different worlds than everyone else, how they function on another level together.
This film’s jostling between time periods, and between settings, is expertly done and wraps up beautifully at the end. I will admit, I wasn’t totally grabbed by the first 10 minutes of the film, but the way the film’s ending worked in the same universe as it’s beginning, well, it simply made me want to stand up and applaud. Sometimes it can be tricky to work in three different time periods and make it an utter success, but Anderson pulls it off. His screenplay functions within these realms masterfully.
But I guess it’s inevitable that I fall back to Monsieur Gustave H. What a very interesting character. Here we have a man who, towards the back-end of the film, has amounted incredible wealth. But from the beginning of the film, he seems out-of-place, like he comes from a time much simpler, presumably in the past. His manner is old-fashioned; his wit is something different; he prefers older women rather than those from the current generation. Wealth never seems a big priority. Instead, he’s so grateful to be named the person receiving “Boy with Apple”, because continuing the past seems important to him. Something about Gustave shouts “the past” in big, purple, centred letters. He can’t escape this dated way of life, although admittedly, he’s not really trying to.
So it’s hardly a surprise that, totally and wholeheartedly, this film is a story of how we connect between time, how our stories are passed on, about the nature of history. Wes Anderson is perhaps trying to say that stories like that of Gustave are better told, better shared, the memories better kept alive, because without care, they die, just like the hotel that was once so mighty, so beautiful, since reduced to a barren land of dated memories. It’s incredibly tragic and heart-breakingly beautiful in a way, but as I said at the start of this review, it’s the kind of film that “never takes itself too seriously, but in the end it forces you to consider what it’s saying.”
MY RATING: 9 out of 10.
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