Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel, of Which I Start Writing Four Different Things and Then Forget What My Point Was.

I assume the rule of thirds is applied here by accident.
On a delightfully whimsical day in the throes of 2007, a much-thinner-than-now, pink-haired youth sitting in a quaint classroom in the romantic and mysterious land of East Lansing, Michigan was asked to provide to the classroom his favorite director of films.  To this question, he replied simply—avoiding the tenuous conviction typically associated with the youths of 2007—with "Woody Allen" (Or Takashi Miike, one can't be too sure in a year like 2007).  One after another, the next eleven youths in a row supplied "Wes Anderson" as their most preferred director of cinema.  And the colored girls went, "Doo do doo do doo do do doo..."

While that story exists largely to fulfill my own sense of whimsy, it leads to a few important points.  The first, is that whimsy often suddenly leads to uncomfortable political incorrectness that Wes Anderson is usually better at navigating than I am.  The second, is that a whole lot of people really like Wes Anderson.

We'll get to the political incorrectness shortly (we always do), but let's quickly make the assumption that, amongst the tidal wave of superhero blockbusters, flagrant auteurism is clearly of more value.  Wes Anderson films exist entirely in a Wes Anderson world, and while recent Anderson films Moonrise Kingdom and Grand Budapest Hotel have become increasingly and alarmingly similar in a number of ways, they're still both incredibly unique in the grand scope of cinema—even when they're bad.

And Grand Budapest Hotel isn't bad, it's just a little too hollow.  Artistic flourishes, set design and shot framing should be supplemental, not the film's focus.  There's a decent screwball comedy nestled somewhere under this perfectly-centered, cotton candy dreamscape, but Anderson never quite figures out what the film is about, and he doesn't seem to care either.

Grand Budapest Hotel is the story of a girl reading a book, in which the author tells the story of the time he was told the story of Monsieur Gustave H, the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, located in a brightly colored European town of Anderson's own creation.  Gustave is a wonderful character, swindling his way into and out of all sorts of trouble, and at times feels like a sharp-tongued Inspector Clouseau in a Wes Anderson remake of The Pink Panther.

When Gustave inherits a painting from one of the now-deceased elderly women he had been sleeping with, the woman's son, Adrien Brody, throws a tantrum and sends Willem Dafoe around to kill some people.  Gustave and his trusty lobby boy scamper about in attempts to avoid being killed by Willem Dafoe or being captured by the police.  The entire plot exists solely to showcase Gustave and the lobby boy having whimsical interactions in different places, and while these interactions are at least funny, the film also makes some brief attempts towards themes that just never come together.

For instance, one of the men telling the other man the story (but not the man telling the story about the man telling him a story), gets all sad when he reminisces about the baker girl that he was hopelessly in love with, but no one cares.  The man being told the story by the other man (The man hearing this story is the one telling the story of hearing the story in the book that is being read by the girl) has a weird nostalgic moment that no one gets.  The author of the book (who is also the man being told the story within the book that he himself wrote) dies and the girl reading the book (written by the man who died, and who also heard the story) gets really sad.  So, basically there is no theme except that multiple frame narratives are stupid.

There's some abrupt violence, some abrupt skiing and some abrupt meanie-faced-name-calling, and I know I promised to discuss it, but there's less political/societal incorrectness than usual.  Maybe I'm just immune to awkwardness after experiencing that beach scene in Moonrise Kingdom.  That reminds me: Grand Budapest Hotel is basically just Moonrise Kingdom with less heart and a more jumbled narrative, so just go watch that instead.  Actually, just watch Rushmore.



  1. "The entire plot exists to solely to showcase Gustave and the lobby boy having whimsical interactions in different places, and while these interactions are at least funny, the film also makes some brief attempts towards themes that just never come together."

    >The entire plot exists to solely to
    >plot exists to solely to
    >to solely to

    I figured you'd want to know, since you actually seem to be a decent writer. Also, I have enjoyed your thoughts.

  2. I reread the article before I saw this comment existed and you are correct. I was upset.