As Wes Anderson a movie as was ever Wes Andersoned by Wes Anderson, to be sure. The Grand Budapest Hotel is basically everything I could have wanted it to be and then some. The entire movie feels very carefully unreal, in a way that reminds me of cartoons that are made entirely of cut paper moving in stop motion rather than actual animation. It’s all models and intense colors and confections that look like they ought to be made out of play-do but you know they’ll taste amazing.
And Willem Dafoe with a bulldog underbite.
I think the glue that holds The Grand Budapest Hotel together and makes you believe all the careful fakery is that just before the unreal silliness of it hits the point of twee, something shocking happens. Fingers get chopped off. People get stabbed. Ralph Fiennes suddenly starts cussing a blue streak. And even when it’s not necessarily funny, you can’t help but laugh anyway because it’s just so damn startling.
Also, allow me to share with you my favorite exchange in the entire movie. For context, know that Dmitri is Madame D’s son, and has spent pretty much all of his screen time relentlessly attacking M. Gustave’s sexuality.
Dmitri: If I find out you laid one finger on my mother’s body, living or dead…
M. Gustave: I thought I was a faggot.
Dmitri: [moment of confused silence] You’re bisexual.
I almost snorted iced tea out my nose.
The only thing in the movie I wasn’t really wild about was the three layered narrative. I still don’t get the point of adding the third layer, which we only even see at the beginning and the end of the movie. As it is, you get a bit about the “author,” then the author meeting Mr. Moustafa, and then Mr. Moustafa relating the story to him. I don’t see the necessity of that top layer, unless it was self-consciously to mimic the three-tiered design of the Courtesan au Chocolat confection, which really seems like it’s trying too hard. (Or maybe you could tease something out about looking back into the past and looking back into the past again, but that also seems like trying too hard.)
The story is pretty much as presented in the trailer. I suppose if this movie is about anything, it’s the intrusion of war and death–and reality, really–into this carefully unreal place. It’s funny, but for all the death that occurs in the movie, none of it ever feels real until the end, when suddenly the film goes from bright color to black and white. Maybe it’s even a bit about how people form their own family units. But I think the real point is the hectic, fantastic journey. It was weird and hilarious and I loved it.