Film review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)






The most visually dazzling movie I’ve seen in quite some time! Happy I saw it on the big screen. Doesn’t have a dull moment, I was captivated by that world that was created, wanting to step into it, and was tapping my foot along to the score. Apparently different aspect ratios were used in each respective flashback, and each era has a distinct color palette, but I didn't even notice that.
Loosely based on Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, and perhaps a tribute to a bygone era. The actual story is simple, with entertaining and amusing dialogue. Ralph Fiennes' character is fairly odd, yet I couldn’t wait to hear what he’d say next.



I used to not get the director’s light-hearted style, which I found pointless and lacking in depth, but I‘ve begun to warm to Wes Anderson’s work, as I mellow with age, and just accept it for the quirkiness, charm, playfulness and eye candy. Yes, it may be style over substance, but sometimes that’s ok. You could probably watch The Grand Budapest Hotel like you read a comic, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson’s movies adapted to graphic novels.

I wouldn’t have minded it went on 20 minutes longer, so several of the supporting characters were fleshed out a bit more, and not merely cameos. There are other weaknesses too, the film’s resolution of the murder plot, and the fact F. Murray Abraham doesn't look anything like another character.

I have read critics complain that the characters are unpleasant and lacking in redeeming virtues, but I didn't see it that way myself. While there is pending gloom, violence and greed, the film also highlights what used to be, and still is, important: Decency, meticulousness, manners, eloquence, presentability, being the best at what you do, looking after your fellow employees, and so on.
As Andy Buckle wrote in his review, Anderson is able to "find humour in the most sad and mundane events"

Rating 4.5/5

Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome

18 comments:

  1. Hi Chris! Glad you love this too. It' a visual treat indeed but I'm glad the story holds up well too, so it's definitely not a case of style over substance.

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    1. @Ruth: Indeed a visual treat. I agree the story is good, but I think in terms of substance there is more going on. Like I was saying at the end of my review, highlighting virtues of a bygone era. Glad you loved it too!

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  2. This is right now, my favorite film of the year. I just had a ball watching it. Yet, what made the screening more enjoyable were the two old ladies who were sitting in front of me who laughed their ass off during the screening.

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    1. @thevoid99: Funny you should say that, I didn’t mention it in my review, but I had almost the exact same thing happen, with a women next to me laughing quite a lot. It did indeed make it even better to have a communal experience in the cinema!

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  3. Given that you rarely review movies lately, means this movie is a plus. I think I should definitely check this out! What about the soundtrack?

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    1. @Andina: Indeed, I rarely do full reviews, so you’re right, had a big impact, so I wanted to share my thoughts on it. Hope you get to see it soon :)
      The soundtrack is mostly instrumental, worked great with the fast-paced story, I don't know if I would listen to it outside the movie, though.

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  4. Good review Chris. Such a lovely treat to watch. Maybe Anderson's most ambitious to date, and while that may not automatically make it his best, it still makes it worth a watch.

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    1. @Dan O: Thanks. I haven’t seen every single one of Anderson’s films, I agree Budapest Hotel is ambitious. His latest has certainly gotten me interested in rewatching his previous work, maybe I will look at them differently now.

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  5. I liked this one quite a bit, too. Like you, I think I am finally starting to warm up on Anderson films. I would put this a close second behind Moonrise Kingdom as far as my favorites go. Also: glad I'm not the only one who thought the connection between Abraham and the young bus boy was dubious at best.

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    1. Eric @ The Warning Sign: Yeah, Moonrise was very good, and the child perspective worked wonders with Wes Anderson’s style. Looks like he managed to appeal to a wide audience again with Budapest Hotel.
      Someone argued on IMDb board that Abraham maybe wasn’t the boy? To make us question whether the older Zero is giving us an accurate account of his life. But I don’t buy that theory myself.

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  6. Great review of what is definitely a visual treat. I would even argue that there is plenty of emotion thrown into the Gustav/Zero relationship.

    Though I agree the secondary characters aren't given quite enough treatment.

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    1. @jjames36: Thanks, indeed, a visual treat, and agree could have done more with secondary characters. Gustav’s mentor role works really well.

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  7. I really liked it (4/5), but the film actually felt too long to me. I can't wait to see it again though, as Moonrise Kingdom improved a lot for me on a second viewing.

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    1. @Josh: 4/5 is a pretty high score, so that's fair enough. I hope I don’t go in the other direction and downgrade Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom on rewatch :)

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  8. Lovely review! My favourite film of the year so far. It's witty, emotional and visually beautiful. The actors’ performances are effective, humorous, and sometimes, quite sad.

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    1. @LightsCameraReaction: Thank you! Yes, the things the movie goes for, humor, visuals, and so on, it does very well. And I agree there is some heart there as well.

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  9. Nice review. It makes me want to see this. Sadly, I have been so busy it has been impossible to get to as many films as I would have liked in the past couple of months. I completely agree with your thoughts about Wes Anderson and the superficial quality of his work. This has always been a point of contention about everything he does for me. I mean, do we appreciate it for what it is and for the way in which it looks, or do we judge the caricaturesque quality of all the characters he creates as a fault rather than a strength. For once, I would be interested in seeing something a bit more adult from Anderson. Now that would be something I would go see in a theater right away.

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    1. @niels85: Thanks. Indeed Wes Anderson’s filmmaking is very stylized and with moments that you normally only see in movies. So if you’re looking for stories delving into what it means to be human, then his films are probably not where you’ll find any insight about the human condition.
      Grand Budapest Hotel I liked a lot, and I think the movie worked. Yes, I too would like to see Wes Anderson try something realistic. I think Wes is happy with what he’s doing, but you never know what the future holds. I used to knock him as a shallow director, looking for things that weren’t there, now I just appreciate his uniqueness.

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