Film: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is indeed grand and unapologetically Andersonian in its quirkiness and obsessive aesthetic. Even so, as an Anderson skeptic myself, I was surprised to find myself laughing aloud frequently throughout the film. Anderson’s films have been accused of excessive awkwardness, experimentalism, and aloofness (Moonrise Kingdom, in particular, comes to mind), but The Grand Budapest Hotel is more charming than awkward, more Hollywood than experimental, and more urgent than aloof.

The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the story of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the meticulous and dignified concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel. At the start of the film, M. Gustave inherits a very valuable piece of art from a wealthy patroness and resident of the hotel. Even though the artwork rightfully belongs to him, however, he—with some aid from his protégée Zero (Tony Revolori), the hotel’s lobby boy—have to steal the painting from the deceased’s disgruntled family, who wish to keep the artwork for themselves. Gore, love, imprisonment, and mystery punctuate M. Gustave and the lobby boy’s epic escape from the evil clutches of the patroness’s family.

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson anchors his wit, which in previous movies could border on being ungrounded and frivolous, with a few sage, simple takeaways: justice will prevail in the face of depravity, and karma will serve you well if you are persistently kind. Though these takeaways are perhaps cliché, the film successfully avoids being trite. The plot is thick (self-consciously so, as M. Gustave notes: “The plot thickens, as they say”) with many unpredictable twists. Its fast pace and satisfying arch make this film as Hollywood as Anderson dares to make it without compromising its Andersonian quirk and charm. The result is a film that it is hard not to fall in love with.

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