The Grand Budapest Hotel

“I still don’t quite get Wes Anderson, but I keep trying. Most of the time, I’m left with a “”Huh?”” feeling, that usually kicks in about halfway thru. At least with some of his recent offerings, I’ve been able to find things to appreciate. Fantastic Mr Fox was the first one I enjoyed, and then Moonrise Kingdom. I didn’t find Grand Budapest to be on the level as those two for me, but it certainly rises above some of his earlier ones that were completely lost on me.

As often happens when I get very familiar with a director, I have come to appreciate his signature style. I really do love the picturesque style he has. Everything is bright and beautiful. I really love when he’s clearly using miniatures to capture the set (sadly a lost art in Hollywood at large), and I like peeking into his self contained little worlds. It’s like he has a big dollhouse with live actors that he positions in place exactly how he wants them. His reputation for being a perfectionist and giving his cast strict guidelines reinforces that image, as does his loyal band of actors who at least make an appearance in all his films. I’m also starting to pick up on things like how conversational dialog is mostly delivered directly at the camera instead of in profile, further highlighting the shadowbox imagery of his scenes.

But where he tends to lose me is when the plot gets weird. And his plots always get weird. I was with Grand Budapest for about the first half, learning about the hotel and the intrigue going on there. I was even with it thru most of the jail sequence, but that was as far as my attention could handle. I liked the thought of the hotel and its inner workings, so I guess my disappointment was in not getting to see more of it.

Currently much of the raves about the film are being directed at our lead, Ralph Fiennes, and deservedly so. He carried the film with such playful finesse, playing a solid character with an understated personality. He fit into Anderson’s world so well, it’s almost unbelievable that he wasn’t already part of Anderson’s merry band of actors. Edward Norton, who played the police inspector, has been quoted as saying that he was ready to fight for the lead role of Gustave H, until hearing that it belonged to Fiennes. I spent much of the film trying to picture how Norton would have played it, and as much as I adore him, I think Anderson did make the right choice.

I’m happy that this one is among Anderson’s more accessible films, even if I’m not yet cool enough to get all of it. And I do appreciate that there is room in the film world for someone as quirky as he is.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – \m/ \m/ \m/

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