DANIEL WILKINS ’16
Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” follows an eloquent hotel concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), and his devoted lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). The film begins through a few short, different, narratives until finally an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) tells the story of M. Gustave directly to a young writer (Jude Law). Within this narrative, the film’s story takes place.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is enjoyable on even the most basic of levels. The characters Anderson writes are all so amazingly unique and individually comical that each new character provides a steady stream of entertainment for the audience. What makes the introduction of each character even more enjoyable is the recognizable actors who play them (particularly recognizable to those familiar with Anderson’s other films). The movie is loaded with big name stars, including Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson and Billy Murray, and many of them are cast against type or just play rather silly characters in general. One great example is Willem Dafoe, who plays a psychotic hitman who, given his actions and profession, should be a frightening character. Instead, to match the film’s mood, his costume and persona is so ridiculous that his character is more comical than anything else. The unbreakable determination of M. Gustave is equally amusing at times, and ultimately, the audience is easily entertained.
However, Wes Anderson succeeds not only in making an entertaining film, but also in creating a truly unique experience for the audience. While Anderson frequently wows the audience with beautiful shots of German mountains and giant castles he also provides a perfect mixture of wit and charm through his characters. Each character gives off their own unique persona to collectively give the film its own charm. Amongst the many impressive characters and the well recognized cast, Ralph Fiennes shines the brightest in the role of M. Gustave.
M. Gustave, the film’s hero, manages to perfectly represent the theme of good conquering evil just through his own character. In the film’s major conflict between a strangely evil family led by Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and a strangely inspiring bond between M. Gustave and Zero, the film thrives on a perfect contrast between good and evil. Anderson’s writing reiterates that the world is primarily filled with evil. However, M. Gustave shows that in the face of evil, one can maintain goodness. Gustave is never shaken and never breaks his character. His preciseness is constant, his charm never lacking. Regardless of whatever wacky situation (of which there are quite a few) Anderson puts him in, he maintains his uniquely pleasant aura. Gustave’s odd charm contrasts perfectly with the dark forces he faces and each unfortunate situation he makes. As he tells the story, Moustafa finally concludes that Gustave “retained the illusion with remarkable peace.” While Gustave lives in a world of evil, filled with murder, greed and a lack of morality, he faces it as if it were the opposite. M. Gustave treats the world like it is magical. By doing so, he creates magic in himself. His ability to show grace and beauty in any circumstance is quite admirable and makes his character intriguing.
What makes Gustave’s character even more enjoyable is the fact he is played by Ralph Fiennes. Over the years, it seems he is perhaps most notable for playing the villain with characters such as Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter and Amon Goeth from Schindler’s List, yet he stars as a comical and insightful character as M. Gustave. That Fiennes is cast against the villain-type he often plays perfectly mirrors M. Gustave’s role in the film. Fiennes is easily recognizable as the villain and in part can be a representation of evil. However, he succeeds greatly in playing the ever-positive M. Gustave. By casting Fiennes against his type, Anderson maintains the film’s theme directly within his star, Gustave.
Anderson’s film is both an entertaining and intriguing film because of the presence of humor contrasted with brutal violence and supplemented by beautiful cinematography. The film’s costumes are humorous enough (from Zero’s hand-drawn mustache to Willem Dafoe’s brass knuckles), but Anderson’s writing makes even mundane conversation comical. Each characters’ quips are perfectly timed, and each character possesses such amusing quirks that whenever characters interact they provide consistent humor. These interactions are made even more entertaining and delightful through the dream-like quality Anderson maintains within each of his shots. This dream-like quality has become characteristic of many of Anderson’s films and it keeps a positive light even in spite of darkness. The dream-like quality of his films also immerses the audience into a fully sensational experience and is the trademark that has made his films so successful.
While “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is very similar to many of Wes Anderson’s other films, you can certainly enjoy it even if you are not familiar with them. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” fits no genre, and any plot synopsis would fail to capture the significance of the film. I believe the best way to appreciate the film is to have little knowledge of what to expect.
Wes Anderson is a masterful director and he takes the audience on a delightful ride throughout the film. Any person can enjoy this movie, all that is required is to temper expectations and allow yourself to be swept away by Anderson’s brilliance.