Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Review: Wes Anderson's Elegant 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' Is a Delightful Action-Comedy As Only He Could Make It

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire March 5, 2014 at 10:00AM

Over the years, Wes Anderson's movies have steadily developed a lush, eccentric world that operates on its own terms, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" excels at exploring it.
0
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Over the years, Wes Anderson's movies have steadily developed a lush, eccentric world that operates on its own terms, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" excels at exploring it. Anderson's colorful period piece reflects the sensibilities of its creator at the height of his artistic confidence. While it notably draws from preexisting material — namely, the writings of Viennese intellectual Stefan Zweig, though Anderson has also tipped his hat to various other wartime literature — one of America's most distinguished modern auteurs has spun his clutter of reference points into a collage-like fantasy adventure so clearly fused with the rest of his oeuvre that it belongs to the writer-director more than anyone else. Yet within the constraints of his distinctive tinkering, Anderson remains a compelling storyteller who provides an actor's playground, in this case providing Ralph Fiennes with one of his most distinguished roles. While it has many familiar ingredients — from the atmosphere to the ensemble of Anderson regulars in nearly every role — in its allegiance to Anderson's vision, everything about "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a welcome dose of originality. 

Grand Budapest Hotel
Fox Searchlight "Grand Budapest Hotel"

"Once the public knows you're a writer, the stories come to you," says a narrator in the movie's opening minutes, and that certainly fits this unrestrained blend of quirk, melancholia and storybook imagery, which takes place in a made-up country during wartime and unspools as a flamboyant, insuppressibly joyous farce that could only have arrived with the ongoing confirmation of Anderson's talent. The danger with his particular sort of creativity comes the usual trapping of placing form ahead of content: His homegrown style often borders on sensory overload — each neatly designed color scheme and snappy exchange can lead to a string of visual sugar highs, like icing with no cake beneath — and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" threatened to devolve into self-parody. But everything since then has shown a steady process of refinement. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" ultimately succeeds, like the similarly ostentatious "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," at applying its capriciousness to a set of fascinating characters and real drama underneath the sense of play.

Part action-comedy and crime caper, as well as a keen satire of the same bravura fueling the filmmaking, the writer-director's eighth feature contains a dense plot that unfurls through two layers of narration: Jude Law, as a young Zweig-like writer visiting the palatial hotel in the fictional European mountain country of Zubrowska in the late eighties, comes across the cryptically cheery owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and asks him about his history at the hotel. While a modern day Law narrates their encounter, Moustafa's narration sends the movie back to 1932, where the main action takes place. The expressive art direction literally expands beyond the frame: Each period receives its own distinctive aspect ratio — most significantly, the Academy ratio of 1.33 for the main flashback, with the boxed-in look aptly reflecting the story-within-a-story framing device.

The central figure of this period is equally a figure of fantasy on par with the setting: Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the giddy concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, who happily seduces the older clientele while offering dubious life advice to the young doting bellboy Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori, playing the youthful version of Abraham's character). When one of Gustave's elderly paramours suddenly dies (Tilda Swinton, under pounds of makeup in a handful of scenes), leaving a priceless artifact in Gustave's possession, he faces two oppressive forces at once: A skeptical police crew (led by a comically mustachioed Edward Norton) convinced Gustave committed the crime, while the deceased woman's crafty son Dmitry (Adrian Brody) aims to prevent Gustave from claiming the prize, and sets loose the vampiric hitman Jopling (Willem Dafoe) on a path of violence. While chaos ensues, Gustave rarely looses his smirking bravado as he barks orders at Zero, ostensibly the real hero of the story as he develops a romance with the town's young baker (Saoroise Ronan) and slowly transitions from shyness to take control of the situation.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The resulting chemistry between Gustave and the increasingly confidant Zero, as they head across the countryside with various forces on their trail, consolidates aspects of several recent Anderson ventures: Like "The Darjeeling Limited," much of the exposition takes place on a train; like "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," chase scenes maintain a marvelous cartoon-like fluidity; as with "Moonrise Kingdom," the goofy romance and high stakes plot belie the sincerely touching relationships beneath the surface. But "The Grand Budapest Hotel" manages a trickier balance than its predecessors, juggling a speedy plot with striking imagery and perceptive characterizations in the bubbly spirit of a screwball comedy and plenty of soul.

With each beat exquisitely tied to Anderson's techniques, his zippy historical fairy tale (replete with hand-scrawled chapter headings) has a thoroughly immersive quality. The usual vibrant reds and blues (elegantly captured by cinematographer Robert Yeoman) mesh nicely with Alexandre Desplat's jangly soundtrack. At once absurd and beautiful, Anderson's world has never been so spectacularly realized.

This article is related to: Reviews, Comedy-Drama, Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Adrian Brody, Fox Searchlight






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More