It’s the time of the year again when film enthusiasts catch up on 2014’s best films to appraise their luster for Oscar gold. (Lately) Checking in to the awards conversation, I begin with Wes Anderson’s latest whimsical ensemble and one of the earliest buzzed movies, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.
I must confess (like Mr. Gustave and Zero’s clerical charade). I am new to the enamoring visual style of Wes Anderson’s curated world. My viewing slate still includes a significant number of his previous films, but a crash course on the dainty Moonrise Kingdom enlightened me of his unique panache. But Anderson’s enticing signature isn’t just defined by the colorful palette and playful sets. He invites us to a world mirroring our own; the vibrancy doesn’t shy from tragedy. Particularly on this film, Anderson paints tragicomedy in sucrose hues whose visual appeal is deboned towards the humanness of the story. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is an enthusiastic tableau that balances its sweetness to the eyes through the sourness of its sentimentality and it blends well, making the film more worthwhile as if revisiting a part of history that is your own.
Its carnation edifice evoking a page from a pop-up book, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is told through a story-within-a-story-within-a-story structure, starting from the elderly author’s narration of his younger self (Jude Law) who leafed out chapters of the eponymous hotel’s history from its elderly owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). In chromatic flashbacks, he recounted his humble hospitality beginnings as a lobby boy (Tony Revolori) under the tutelage of the suave concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (a delightful Ralph Fiennes). Kindled by the death of the hotel’s patron, Gustave and Zero’s adventure (partitioned in five segments) is a circus of aesthetic playfulness that gives much color on Anderson’s black-and-white script. It’s hard to imagine a film that is made so alive by its visuals and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the perfect epitome, from the ornate production designs to the costumes and make-up (specifically the chameleon coating for Tilda Swinton). (I won’t be surprised if the film sweeps technical nominations at the Oscars.) But what makes THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL such a wholly delight is the ensemble who eagerly donned Anderson’s period quirk. Along with the filmmaker’s staple of actors, it was Fiennes who stood out as he effortlessly crosses the comedic genre as the smooth-talking and stealthy Mr. Gustave. Johnny Depp was initially cast as the ostentatious concierge, which I think would be a quick give-away of the film’s tone (making it predictable). But Fiennes fashions a beguiling elegance that finely fits him in the purple suit; and his classy demeanor makes the farcical scenes more humorous.
Zero’s baptism of fire as The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s newest lobby boy.
Revolori as the sidekick is capable and proves that he’s more than the viewer’s window of grasping Mr. Gustave’s opportunistic actions. While the prized concierge gleams on the passing luxuries of his privileged profession, the naïve lobby boy gradually learns what and who deserve to be reminisced. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the glorification of Anderson’s knack for visual appeal but beneath the movie’s whimsicality is the cornerstone of sentimentality that old Moustafa wistfully reveals in the ending. Not to give much away, the film, as Rotten Tomatoes summarized, is deceptively thoughtful which makes it more special. Somehow, Anderson’s latest comedy is representative of the materialistic and pragmatic mementos we hold onto: Mr. Gustave and his painting along with the wealth Madame D bestowed him; and Moustafa and the hotel who continue to stand (and struggle) for decades, in the memory of his wife.
Overhead shot (a glimpse of the film’s beautiful photography)
Named after the 1932 Oscar Best Picture winner Grand Hotel, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is everything that you can hope for in a Wes Anderson film, but the novel stylishness tailored for its period setting and the pint of tragedy and pensiveness as the aftertaste make for a more alluring Anderson experience.