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Wes Anderson has a magical ability to create vibrant and eccentric worlds for his characters to reside in, something readily apparent in The Grand Budapest Hotel. The lighthearted, thrilling adventure is a welcome surprise, and a fantastic film that will lure you into this amusing tale.

The Players:

Plot Synopsis:

The years have come and gone, and even though The Grand Budapest Hotel is nothing more than a distant memory, it’s last proprietor (Abraham) is more than welcome to share the story to an eager author (Law) about the establishment in its heyday. He harkens back to the hotel during his early days when he was just a mere lobby boy by the name of Zero (Revolori), following and aiding the outstanding concierge Gustave (Fiennes) in a marvelous adventure.

The Good:

  • Fantastic Production Design: The only way I can begin talking about the great things about this film is touching upon the stellar production design. Adam Stockhausen previously worked on Wes Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, and was able to enhance it through his own clever ways. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson was able to give Stockhausen the kind of creative freedom to concoct a variety of designs to bring this fictitious establishment to life, and that includes the miniatures of the building itself. The collaboration of the filmmaker’s vision and Stockhausen’s talent transforms into an array of eye-pleasing environments that not only capture the visual essence of Anderson but the talented work of this special production designer.
  • The Cast: Each Wes Anderson movie is bursting at the seams with a dynamic cast, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different. Ralph Fiennes leads the charge as the peculiar Gustave, a person with a colorful background as well as a tongue. The ride he brings the young Zero in on is quite the crazy adventure, but if this character wasn’t such a little devil, none of it would have happened in the first place. Fiennes brings to life this not-so-squeaky-clean hero of sorts, injecting his own slick mannerisms and incredible charm to this character, but he’s not the only one who shines in this film. Newcomer Tony Revolori isn’t just a voyeur that places us in this trip; he’s very much a part of it. The character experiences his own flurry of changes throughout the film which are executed wonderfully by the young actor. The rest of the talented cast is chewing up every bit of scene they’re in, especially the skeptical lawyer Kovacs (Goldblum), the fang-toothed Jopling (Dafoe) and his selfish brother Dmitri (Brody) whose hair could do battle with Henry Spencer of Eraserhead.
  • Anderson In Top Form: It’s been reported that Wes Anderson and the story’s co-writer Hugo Guinness were inspired by the works of Stefan Zwing, but once the film begins there’s a different visual feel emitting from each frame of this movie. It’s not that Anderson doesn’t care about this picture, he very much does, but there’s a more lighthearted atmosphere radiating from the film, which works at the same time. His camera tracks and pans are sharper than every, quicker considering that this is a heavier adventure story compared to others in his filmography. He’s become such a fantastic master behind the camera, so in-tune with his unique style that each shot appears effortless to create, to show and to keep us all completely locked in this intriguing world from beginning to end.
  • Character Looks/Costumes: Since this movie is set in a fictitious world, but still in a very real time period, the costume designs are specific for the era but still unique. The hotel servants are coated in layers of posh purple outfits, sleek but comfortable. Even the design of the skulls on Joplin’s knuckles are incredible and do look as if they contain some of Dafoe’s sharp features. The costumes in this just further enhance the actor’s performances and the world in general.
  • Film Aspect Ratio Shifts: Anderson and company were obviously having a bit of fun tinkering with the aspect ratios throughout the film. When you see a younger version of the author speaking with older Zero, the screen is 1.85:1, but when we go into the past that contains Gustave, the screen shrinks down to 4:3. The change is rather subtle, and I didn’t even notice it until we got a wide shot of the hotel back in its hey-day, but the shift will be appreciated by big time movie fans.
  • Quick, Exciting Story: There isn’t an enormous amount of depth and heartache attached to The Grand Budapest Hotel, and in some ways is Anderson’s most playful movie to-date, but that doesn’t make the story any less better. The audience is with Gustave and Zero as they weave in and out of their sticky situations in order to survive. The main message may be the most heartwarming of all, showing that a good story can survive throughout different eras, and the best ones can still be shared and loved by many.

The So-So:

  • Story Within A Story Within A Story: This is a part that I can understand could be a little confusing for some audience members, so let me explain. The Grand Budapest Hotel stars with a young woman going to the grave of an author (Wilkinson), then we see him talking about his unique experience on camera years back, and then we go to the younger version of himself conversing with older Zero who tells the story of Gustave. A little baffling, no? It appears that way at first, but when Zero’s story about Gustave gets going, all confusion leaves you. It’s a little bit of a rough start to the story, but at least it doesn’t completely throw you off for too long.

The Bad:

  • It’s extremely difficult to think of anything bad about The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Overall:

The Grand Budapest Hotel may be one of my favorite Wes Anderson movies next to The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. It contains the kind of excitement, heart, and fantastic visual style that we all have grown to love from his films.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in limited theaters on March 7, and expands shortly thereafter.

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