2014-04-14

Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Last night I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel. I liked the film, but.

For the most part, when you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you know what you're getting. Not only do all of his films have a "common look and feel," with respect to special effects and cinematography, the tone of the script is always quite similar. Perhaps, most importantly of all, however, are the common themes that underpin all of his work.

They always deal with a character who has somehow declined from his glory days. All the central characters in Anderson's films have a back-story of great success and acclaim, and usually also great fortune, which has waned over the years. The characters are all fighting off their inevitable obscurity by going on some sort of a final hurrah, proving that they, in fact, still are as praiseworthy as they once were.

While each of Anderson's films tackle these issues in a slightly different way, in many ways a viewer might consider them all more or less the same story. One might be tempted to call this a criticism of Anderson's work, but once you get over that, you start to understand that in Anderson's oeuvre, the backdrop, the setting, and the imagery provides the variation that people typically expect in plot.

(Or do they? We see so many variants of the same 5 Hollywood plot lines, that why should we fault one filmmaker for telling a story he originated the same time many different ways?)

If you read a lot of my reviews, you know that I generally start out with some kind of plot summary, but for reasons I've just outlined, I simply feel it's unnecessary here. Because this is a Wes Anderson movie, you the audience already knows what to expect, for the most part. And, for the most part, you will already know whether you will enjoy the film.

All of the criticisms that could be applied to The Royal Tennenbaums, or The Life Aquatic, or Rushmore also apply to The Grand Budapest Hotel. The dialogue isn't realistic, but it isn't intended to be. The film has thick shades of pessimism and melancholy, but mixed with an intelligent sense of humor. The characters are all flawed, but we root for them anyway. The movie is very slow.

The reason these criticisms fall flat is that The Grand Budapest Hotel isn't really trying to be a "Hollywood" movie. It's trying to be a Wes Anderson movie. It succeeds by a wide margin, but the audience still comes away feeling a little tired, a little dejected, a little glum. 

In other words, Anderson once again masterfully delivers more of the same. If people like myself faithfully watch every Jason Statham movie or comic book movie that hits the silver screen, who am I to criticize The Grand Budapest Hotel for delivering exactly what Wes Anderson fans want to see? They surely already know what they're getting, and they surely already know they want to see it. It's a well-done movie that sits well inside the oeuvre.

I liked the film, but. And so it is with all Wes Anderson films (except The Darjeeling Express, which I simply couldn't finish): I like them, but. 

And so it is with The Grand Budapest Hotel. I liked it, but.