Is it possible for Wes Anderson to get more Wes Anderson-y? His latest film suggests there’s little direction to go in terms of packing one film with Wes Andersonisms. The director’s trademark flourishs litter the film. Whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love his work. Massive fan and all that. The Life Aquatic remains one of my favourite films. Anyway, as usual I’m getting ahead of myself.
To recap: the plot here largely starts with an old man sitting in a dilapidated hotel recounting the tale of how he came to own it. We flash back to him as a young man; a lobby boy taken under the wing of the enigmatic and exacting concierge Mr Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes).
As a creation, Gustave is a delight. Fiennes, all at once, makes him camp, flamboyant, flirtatious, matter-of-fact and sincere yet somewhat eccentric. He seduces his elderly guests and recites poetry to his staff at the start of each day.
The story kicks into life with the death of an elderly patron of the hotel who leaves Gustave a priceless painting, Boy With Apple. The family, led by the snarling Adrian Brody and psychopathic Willem Defoe, are rather unhappy with this decision (to put it lightly). So what begins is a tale of murder, revenge, imprisonment, breakout and more.
Along with Fiennes Anderson has gathered an impressive cast, one that seems to grow with each film. Most have small parts yet – due to the way the film has been marketed – you spend a lot of your time ‘cast spotting’… Or at least I did.
Returning to my earlier point about Andersonisms, a large cast is one of them. Along with his tics and flourishs, this is something that’s beginning to distract me somewhat. This film, for me, will probably improve on second viewing as a result. Same applies to Moonrise Kingdom.
All that aside, the story here remains focused on the two central characters: Gustave and his loyal lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori). The chemistry and interplay between the two is charming and drives the movie. Both are interesting characters with a story to tell. Both need each other – there’s clearly an affection there.
And in terms of quirky world building, Anderson has outdone himself again. The actual Grand Budapest Hotel is an impressive creation: from the quaint little lift up the mountain and its impressive lobby to the sumptuous colours (red for the hotel interior, purple for the staff); the detail and way in which the film was shot (eat your heart out instagram lovers) is classic Anderson and every scene, set and scenic landscape should be – once you inevitably buy this on DVD – savoured and appreciated at length.
My only real reservation in this film lies in the fact that, for all its brilliance, I feel Anderson has reached the end of his creative tether in terms of giving the audience what they want – i.e. more and more of the world through a Wes Anderson lens.
For his next project I’d love to see him strip everything back: the cast, the little flourishs and creative oddities, all of it… and then just tell a story in his own unique way.
That could be a refreshing sight to see. Like a full length version of Hotel Chevalier or something. C’mon Wes, make it happen.