THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014, Wes Anderson)
I don’t have much to say about this, which is: a) surprising, given how much I like Wes Anderson and how much I loved MOONRISE KINGDOM, his previous film, which was my favorite Wes to date; b) annoying to you guys, since you’re reading this and want something more; and c) a bit indicative of the experience of this movie. I don’t have much to say because I don’t think the film does either. This is as intricately designed, gorgeously shot, and exactingly executed as any film Wes has made — and because we know Wes is intricate, visually gifted, and exacting, we can say that this is, although not the best Wes Anderson film, the most Wes Anderson film. But unfortunately, I can’t find anything here (and I’m writing this 24 hours after seeing it) to unpack.
Yes, it’s about pre-war Europe; it nods to the Nazis, it nods to how violence in society leads to violence among individuals, it nods to the purity of a mentor-protege relationship, and most pointedly it nods to storytelling in general. It’s a film folded back on itself several times over (a girl in present day reads a book written in 1985 by a writer telling of a story he learned in 1968 from a guy who lived the story in 1932) and thus falls in love with storytelling. But what does it have to say specifically about how or why we tell stories? Nothing as far as I could gather. Same thing for violence, war, and friendship. These are just chapter headings on the rooms of a dollhouse — and it sure is a beautiful dollhouse, and I was entertained throughout the film, laughing out loud both at great lines of dialogue and spirited performances (both from the leads, like Fiennes and Revolori, and from the cameos like Murray, Wilson, and Keitel) — but it all felt as superficial, sweet, colorful, and nutrition-less as a box of Mendl’s confections.