Film reviews by Daniel Davis are an internship project in partnership with Lyndon State College. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer and not of Catamount Arts.
If I told a film fan that a film directed by Wes Anderson was basically a live action cartoon, would they be surprised? Well, I don’t think so. So it came as no surprise to me when I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, that it had one wacky scene after another. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has made another masterpiece of comical proportions. A film that is so absurd and yet so greatly made, it has to be seen to be believed.
The Grand Budapest Hotel continues Wes Anderson’s ridiculousness. As a director, Anderson has made quite the career for himself. He’s a true auteur, having a distinct style that is apparent in all of his films. Most of them are about depressing characters, and they feature black humor; lots and lots of it. The Grand Budapest Hotel, as its title would suggest, is about a hotel located in Europe. The film actually takes place in about three different time periods. Though they never say it, the film opens in the present, and then flashbacks to 1985 and 1932. The present scenes concern a girl. While the scenes in the 1982 concerns a young writer (Jude Law) who visits the hotel and encounters Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who recalls about a story about when he was a lobby boy working under the whim of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) at the hotel, and how the two ended up getting involved in a crime involving murder and theft.
This film seems to have a lot going on. At the same time, it’s played out at such at a silly pace, that I can’t help but smile. There is a lot to laugh about in this film. From the prison escape scene, where Gustave and company stands on really high places just to escape, to the snow chase with Gustave and Zero attempting to get Jopling (Willem Dafoe), this film is a riot. The characters in this movie are played to such extremes; that they are fun to watch, in spite of the problems they seem to be facing. Although this film deals with not so friendly themes, it never takes itself too seriously, instead opting to put into the “Anderson world”, where physics and reality take a back seat to extreme shenanigans.
This movie is helped very much by its actors. Anderson has brought back some of his old cast, in addition to some new people. Returning favorites include, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, but we also meet such newcomers such as, F. Murray Abraham, and the film’s newcomer (the actor had actually been in a movie and some TV shows), Tony Revolvri all bring their A game to this Wes Anderson’s jam. Although the majority of the actors in this film take a back seat too Fiennes, most of them seem to fit right in with Anderson’s nonsensical style.
The actors all play different roles. Ralph Fiennes is the hotel’s strict but likeable owner, Adrien Brody is one of the villains of the story, and tries to make his voice deep and menacing, but comes off as silly, which seems to be intentional, given the tone of the film. Tilda Swinton brings her acting skills to a nothing role, where she spends the majority of the film as a corpse. Edward Norton does well as a serious officer, despite limited screentime. Bill Murray has a thankless but important role. Jason Schwartzman appears at the beginning as one of the people working at hotel in 1985 and then disappears for the remainder of the film. Willem Dafoe is playing his usual slimy, creepy character, a killer, and Jeff Goldblum plays a deputy who delivers a lot of expression, but gets a moment to shine (Goldblum and Dafoe have a chase scene, which is interesting, when you consider that the two have only worked with Wes Anderson once before, in the same movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Saoirse Ronan is nice and calm in her role as a young woman who falls for the bellhop. Speaking of the bellhop, in his film debut, Tony Revolori shows a lot of energy for someone who is new to acting, especially when compared to the other actors in this film. The actors in this film are very much essential to what makes this film work. They are the glue to Wes Anderson’s script. Their wacky and sometimes calm performances fit in very well, here.
The film has plenty of funny moments. Quotes such as “The rest of this shit is worthless junk”, had my audience cracking up. Anderson certainly knows how to write good dialogue. Additionally, the film uses a classical score, much like most of Anderson’s films, with things such as violins and pianos being heard in the background.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is an experience in many ways. It’s a film that I have a lot interest to go back to see, over and over again. The actors, the directing, the humor, it just all somehow works, to make a wondrously silly film, that is deserving of the Wes Anderson name. With this film I’m reminded of why I’m such a big fan of Wes Anderson, he makes the kinds of movies I would want to make, if I was making a feature films right now.