March 30, 2014 1 Comment
Having seen all of Wes Anderson’s films one and only one time, there is a roughly upward trend in my appreciation of the works. This could be the result of a director honing his skill, but in the case of Anderson I’m equally willing to accept that this has more to do with my growing awareness and comfort with what Anderson has to offer. What I might have dismissed as quirk and artifice a decade ago becomes escapist delight. This development has taken Anderson from a director I was fairly ambivalent about to one I feel compelled to seek out, yet even with this growth I don’t recognize any of his films as truly great. Even though there are plenty of dark and even emotional moments in his films, I can’t help but view the stories as being like a meringue, light and insubstantial.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is pretty much what I’ve come to expect, for better and worse, from Wes Anderson. It is a solidly entertaining film with marvelous design of spaces, which combined with the cinematography is pure art. Set at the dawn of a fictional equivalent of WWII, this is used more for an establishment of time and place than to say anything about that. Focused on a matter of probate, that is enough to spur dramatic conflict, but again, it is more narrative convenience than thematic key. The most emotionally relevant aspect is the mentor-mentee relationship of M. Gustave (Ralph Finnes) and Zero (Tony Revolori), staff of the titular hotel. Contrasted against the probate issue, it tells of the power of friendship over family. Whether one’s family is nasty, in the case of Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), or deceased, in the case of Zero, those unrelated individuals can rise to the crucial roles that are typically handed to relatives, providing wisdom or comfort. This exists sufficiently to make the film not feel like a completely hollow exercise in style while also not really deviating from the sense of lark in the whole venture. Ultimately, I feel slightly less enthusiastic than I was for Moonrise Kingdom, but it is another very solid effort.
P.S. Saoirse Ronan for perhaps the first time I’ve seen breaks out of that mold I’d seen her sliding into of always playing slightly ethereal characters that have a certain naivety. Here she plays much more in command of herself and the world around, especially in contrast with Zero. It was nice to see because her talent does seem too great to be pushed into a narrow band of characters.