Ren’s Reviews: The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Disclaimer: Okay, so I’m a big fan of ‘going to the movies.’ I love almost everything about the experience. That being said, I also am easily annoyed by the lack of movie theater etiquette. If you pull your phone out to check the time, text, or god forbid to answer a phone call, I will give you the stink-eye. During the screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel there was a woman directly behind me laughing really, really loudly. I know, I shouldn’t judge how someone emotionally reacts to a movie, but it was more of an annoyance because I felt she was laughing at things that weren’t funny (case in point, laughing when other people weren’t). It was constant laughing and whispering to her friend, pointing out things like, hey that’s Bill Murray! and such. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. And whenever she let out a huge guffaw I felt her breath on the back of my neck since she was sitting up on the edge of her seat. I know this because I unapologetically gave her the stink-eye, yet to no avail.

I will admit that I am not an obsessive Wes Anderson fan. With the exception of never having seen Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox, I am pretty certain that I have seen all of his other feature films only once. Rushmore maybe twice. I find his films enjoyable and always offering something different – both in his form of storytelling and the overall look. His films look like how I remember all my favorite children’s books, particularly picture books, as they are made up of a series of beautifully composed and colorful tableaus. His love of looking at characters and scenes at direct angles, either straight-on or at a 90 degree angle, is something unique and not often seen. He also loves the use of whip pans, when instead of making use of an edit the camera instead quickly moves from one object to the next. All of these elements, while sometimes fun and quirky, have grown tiresome for me. Although it’s pretty obvious that these techniques are trademarks of Anderson’s filmmaking, I never really thought about it too much, which may be because I haven’t re-watched most of his films. Before seeing the film, a former film-student friend of mine discussed his frustration of these tropes. So when I got around to seeing the film it stood out to me even more. I don’t think that a director having a consistent style in one’s films is necessarily a bad thing, but in the case of The Grand Budapest Hotel I found its overuse distracting and substituting technique for substance. In that vein, I wasn’t very compelled by the film’s plot. There were times of great whimsy mixed with really dark, disturbing moments, which made the tone of the film feel inconsistent. Most of all, I never felt connected to any of the characters – in many ways Anderson’s characters come off as one-noted, even though they resemble caricatures. I personally enjoy stories that get inside the heads of the characters on screen, so this is not necessarily a slight to Anderson.

I did enjoy some elements of the film, especially Ralph Fiennes. It was a nice surprise to see him play a foul-mouthed, fast-talking concierge used to the highest standards of hotel management and lady’s nail varnish. I also liked Zero, the concierge in training, and his relationship with Fiennes’ Gustave. They were certainly charming moments that reveled in the hyperrealism of a bygone Europe, not to mention a fictional country with a fictional war. But overall, I couldn’t help but feel fatigued by Anderson’s tropes. I appreciate that he does something different from many other filmmakers, but I would also appreciate it if he would surprise us all by doing something completely unexpected next time around. And that may start by simply making a film with zero whip pans.

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