November 14, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson, 2014
Wes Anderson has some of the most recognizable features to his body of work: quirky sensibility, recurring actors (Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray are the recurring ones here), well-defined color patterns and arrangements, prominent score. In Budapest he revisits some familiar themes. Love separated by an age gap like in Rushmore. Ed Norton playing a person of authority, here as a police officer, tracking down a target as he did in Moonrise Kingdom as Scout Master Ward. There's the mentor / protege dynamic just like we saw in Rushmore between Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman's Max and Herman characters. And there's the dysfunctional family theme, as seen in The Royal Tenenbaums.

The multiple story threads are all built around a murder-mystery plot. When Madame D. is murdered, Gustave is framed for the murder by certain family members of Madame D who are angry that Gustave was included in her last will and testament. Most of the film is Gustave attempting to clear his name while also guarding the valuable "Boy with Apple" painting that was bequeathed to him. There isn't one bad shot in the film. Everything is perfectly framed. Everything is neatly packed in the distinctive Wes Anderson universe. The set design is most similar to his past work in The Life Aquatic with some obvious stage pieces but also some remarkable use of stop motion (the slalom pursuit down the snowy hill is one of the most memorable sequences in the film). It's some of Anderson's most gory & violent work (you don't expect dismemberment, and also manages to make the tired gunfight sequence artful), but it's also some of his most exciting. Anderson gets great use of Fiennes. It's easily some of Anderson's best work, and the somewhat-complicated story never becomes disorienting. 

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