Grand Budapest Hotel

March 23, 2014 5 Comments


“And like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capped towers,  the gorgeous palaces

The solemn temples, the great globe itself–

Yes, all which it inherit–shall dissolve,

And like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind.  We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

is rounded with a sleep.”

Wes Anderson’s newest film echoes the words of Prospero in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”  Prospero is a magician who can conjure up storms at will and who eventually decides to face the limitations of his magic and return to “real” world.  The “reel” world of Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tennebaums and more) has always been filled with magical confections and complex stories that entrance some viewers and annoy others.  Either way, a Wes Anderson film always inhabits a unique world,  transports us there and then shares quiet little stories of (quirky?) characters whose internal lives are most often expressed visually in the rich exterior designs that Anderson so painstakingly creates.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” contains all the trappings of classic Wes Anderson:  eye popping colors, intricately fastidious set designs (often containing miniatures), a gliding camera to follow the hijinks and capers, chapter announcements and an entourage of deadpan veterans from his previous films (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman et al).

But something is very different.

Whimsy has been quietly deepened and darkened. It seems that the  precocious insights of Anderson’s typical prodigy child(or childlike) characters have met their match. of  This story,  takes us (via flashbacks in a flashback) to the once grand hotel in an Eastern European nation about to be swallowed up by war and fascism.  M. Gustave ( played wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes) is a legendary concierge of the glamorous hotel whose story (told to writer Jude Law, playing a flashback character played by Tom Wilkinson) unfolds in the words of Zero, the “Lobby Boy” (played by   Tony Revolori and F. Murray Abraham).  Tilda Swinton as a doomed dowager?  Adrian Brody and Willam Dafoe as very bad guys working together find the masterpiece painting “Boy with Apple” which was bequeathed to M. Gustave by a very appreciative newly-demised Swinton.  Convoluted?  Of course, this IS Wes Anderson.

Bad things happen in this movie.  Yes, there are plenty of moments of plucky determination and a familiar soundtrack to comfort us, but the vapors of evil and sadness never seem far away.   Anderson is certainly wrestling with something different and those of us who can bear it are beckoned to struggle with him.  Some usually careful  reviewers have nonetheless described this film as  empty comedic frivolity.  It’s not.

What did they miss?   Decide for yourself if Prospero’s  famous words resonate with Wes Anderson.

Just don’t miss this MUST SEE movie.

Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week
5 Comments to “Grand Budapest Hotel”
  1. Brian Murphy says:

    Terrific review, Jolyn. I’m a Wes Anderson-innocent . . . and this review makes me want to at least test the innocence. Great use of the “we are such things as dreams are made on” speech–one of the most magical things in Shakespeare.

  2. There’s no time like the present to join the Wes Anderson fan club! I would probably suggest an initiation film such as “Royal Tennebaums” or “Rushmore” before plunging into the darker Hotel Budapest.
    The Tempest quote really does capture the spirit of this movie, however.

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    If you go back to the archives of the “Must See Movie of the Week,” you’ll find on p. 7, June 17,2012, Jolyn’s review of Andersen’s “Moonrise Kingdom” and a comment by me. In it I refer to Andersen’s saying that film style is like handwriting style: it’s the same across subject matter. So what is Andersen’s style and, more importantly, how does his style relate to substance?

  4. Bruce Russell says:

    Also, there is my discussion of Andersen’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox in the archives of the Philosopher’s POV, p. 2, Aug. 2011, followed by 21 comments from Jolyn, Bob Macdonell, Marc Rosen, and me.

  5. Bruce Russell says:

    I would describe this film as “empty comedic frivolity” if I thought it was funny. But I don’t. So I have to say it was just an empty attempt at comedic frivolity.

    Overly intellectual reviewers like A.O. Scott of the NY Times try to find the film’s significance in 20th century culture, film makers, and militarism, but they only provide the backdrop, not the point of the film. Gustave is a dandy who likes to seem profound by quoting poetry and superior to others by being a stickler for upper class etiquette. There is a bunch of quirkiness and absurdity in the film, but to what end? The Grand Budapest Hotel is a grandiose delusion!

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