Friends and family have seen Wes Anderson’s latest on-screen masterpiece and they highly recommended I see it too.
I haven’t been a huge fan of Wes’s films in the past, one or another, here or there maybe. It is undeniable, however, that his style of making movies is different, in our time, from most other modern blockbuster films and their celebrated directors and writers. This one sounded interesting. A hotel in the thirties, I love historical time periods in films. The wide assortment of well-known actors sweetened the deal.
(Beware! Possible spoilers ahead!)
I have had some issues in the past (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and so it’s never certain the service will be up and working, but it makes it easier for myself and my companion to both be able to concentrate and enjoy the movie.
Not all theatres offer the DVS (descriptive video service) for their movies, so it takes planning to find out where to go. The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t the latest blockbuster and is not in a super wide release.
I placed the headset on as the movie began and it was a good sign when the older woman’s voice came through, in my ears.
His movies have an odd and out of place feeling to them, in and amongst most movies of today. The Grand Budapest is no exception. From the very beginning the style is Anderson’s own unique feel.
The movie takes place in eastern Europe. From a snowy graveyard to the snowy countryside, on trains and in giant estates and the hotel, the basis for most of the movie.
It took a while to follow the time changes, the three separate stories, through three different generations. This creates a highly effective layering of story lines and also of the lives of the characters.
The film begins with a girl reading a book, the book written by an author about the hotel and this feels like it is speaking directly to me, as a reader, as a writer, and as a movie fan.
One article I saw on the movie was entitled, “Grand Budapest Hotel is more than Fiennes, it’s wonderful”; aptly named in my opinion, thanks to the talent of the main character. A favourite of mine, Ralph Fiennes, plays the main starring role and his portrayal in this film is another stellar performance to be sure. He plays Monsieur Gustave, a mysterious hotel manager in a fictional country (a mixture of Russia, Romania, etc) during the thirties. He plays this character with humour and skill. He is witty, flirtatious, and clever. It is hard not too root for him all the way through.
The author is old when the story begins and he is retelling, speaking about the time he stayed at the Grand Budapest and wrote about its history.
The first flashback, soon into the film, is of this writer’s experience while staying at the hotel. He meets the elderly owner and manager and learns through this reclusive man the story of how he came to be there.
Once again we are brought back even further, from the eighties to the sixties to the thirties, where most of the movie takes place.
This film has a little bit of everything: luxury and opulence, wartime struggle, mystery and suspense, intrigue and murder. A painting of a boy eating an apple. This particular painting belonged to a very wealthy old woman who Ralph’s character has been having a relationship with. When she suddenly ends up dead the fight for the painting begins, between the old lady’s family and Fiennes’s character, Monsieur Gustave.
Gustave has a new lobby boy working with him who soon becomes his confidant, partner in crime, and best friend. Zero is a memorable name and describes his ranking. However, there is just enough mystery in Monsieur Gustave’s past to give hope that Zero could one day be where he now is. Both their pasts are unknown, suggesting a possible orphaned childhood or loss of family, leaving them essentially all alone in the world, until coming across one another.
As Gustave and Zero embark on a journey which begins with the two of them stealing the painting, chaos ensues. Gustave is charged and sent to a harsh prison, where he and some fellow inmates decide to break out, with the help of Zero and the Budapest cake decorator. A romance develops between Zero and this young girl.
Zero soon will do anything to help his protege. From there the old woman’s family members chase the painting, which Gustave and Zero have hidden away, all the way to the Budapest. The climactic scene involves the young girl and turns into a shoot-out across the hotel.
This movie ends badly on many levels. It is no happy romantic ending, not in the true movie sense of the term. Zero loses the little family he had, but he has continued to hold on to the hotel that meant so much, where he met the love of his life and family in the most unexpected of ways.
The young writer decides to capture all of this in a book, as he sits down in the lobby of the hotel to write down all that the elderly Zero has retold to him.
Wes Anderson is able to take this movie and turn it into a nostalgic look at a time long gone. He combines artsy with action-packed chase scenes down a ski slope and a bobsled track. He dares to be bold in how he chooses to make his movies, in a time when modern special effects are everywhere.
As a fan of old movies, it is a nice break to see the kind of smart writing style of today mixed with the old vintage feel of the cinematic past.