Visual, funny, shallow. The production effort behind this film is magnificent, but the story lacks the big finish that it seems to build up to throughout the movie. Recommended? A fun casual comedy, but not to be taken too seriously.
There were a few elements to the story that did not seem to fit as well as they should have. Throughout the movie, the entire mystery is displayed at face value and the opening leads into a cat and mouse story that brings about a few laughs along the way. For the acclaim and hype that this film initially received, the ending was almost too simple in that everyone calmed down and got what they had coming. The characters had a few more tender and impactful moments, but as an overall story, it leaves something to be desired.
Even the title of the movie and primary location of the film begs a few questions. Of all the possible names Anderson could have given his hotel, he chose Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, despite the fact that there is no significance to the country throughout the whole movie. There are a few symbolic ones in the structure of the film, but nothing particularly relevant to the plot.
The actors cast in this movie truly help to bring the comedy to life. What makes it all work is that the mostly A-list cast of this film take the characters seriously as caricatures of themselves to bring the absurdity of this film to life. Ralph Fiennes holds it all together at the centre of the film, playing the eccentric Gustav H with ease. Edward Norton plays a role similar to that which he played in Moonrise Kingdom with equal vigour and focus. Many of the actors in the film were cast in roles that would be predictable for them, so naturally they all fit in quite well. An interesting decision was having the relatively unknown Tony Revolori play the narrator Zero. This fit the mood of the film, as his character is often out of place among the more important characters.
Director Wes Anderson brought this film to life in the way that only he can. The design of many of the buildings and scenery came alive in his signature style and the efforts put into the production of this film is worth seeing in itself. Anderson brings the kind of simplistic heir to his movies that only comes from a lot of hard work. Each shot captured the right angles. The music set the tone perfectly. The hair and make-up work further set the characters apart. This movie has a chance of sweeping the technical categories at this year’s Oscars Gravity-style, but only time will tell whether or not it will.
The Grand Budapest Hotel has both the advantage and disadvantage of being released as Wes Anderson’s follow-up to Moonrise Kingdom, meaning that the expectations for this one were quite high. This gamble paid off financially, as this has become Anderson’s most successful film to date, but it unfortunately lacked the depth and impression that came about from Moonrise Kingdom. This one ends up in the awkward category of being too pretentious to be taken seriously as a causal comedy, but too bland to be considered a drama. Fortunately, as an artistic piece, there were many clever decisions that were made which make up for the textual shortcomings. For those who don’t expect too much of it, it can be a fun and entertaining experience. But this artsy take is not meant for everyone.