Director: Wes Anderson
Scott Rudin Productions
Hailed as the “return” of Wes Anderson – a man who has made eight films or so and hasn’t exactly gone away ever – The Grand Budapest Hotel is a too-perfect diorama-as-movie, built on scenes within scenes and tales within tales and is remarkable for the fact that it lives and breathes – somehow – without a heart. Without even the faintest trace of heart.
Specialising, ever since the wonderful Rushmore, in non-comedies/anti-comedies and – at least – witless, twee comedies Anderson’s shtick is to frame up a painting or portrait of a sculpture and call it a movie scene. And this is okay as part of a look; his aesthetic is quite remarkable, beautiful attention to detail, quirks, colours, something often approaching charm.
But it doesn’t mean anything. Where The Royal Tenenbaums got a pass mark and Moonrise Kingdom was cute and sweet (and actually had heart), and where Rushmore was actually funny, Grand Budapest plays out like the Tarantino-assembled/approved Four Rooms if scripted entirely (not partially, as was the case) as if a Blake Edwards farce. It’s also so loaded with superficial cameos, with winking, nodding been-in-several-Anderson-films-before-have-I looks from actors playing bored instead of deadpan.
The way the cameos are ramped up in the film’s final act – well, it’s all in act after all – is close to downright embarrassing. A desperation to stack the deck that has clearly worked. People remembering who was in it and how clever and crafted it all seemed when it was a snow globe of a film, no real story attached.
Of course movies don’t have to mean anything – but it’s the idea that this could ever be considered Anderson’s best that hurts. It hurts almost as much as his relentless nostalgia for things that never happened, and never would, and never could – at least not how he (re)imagines them.
Of course Ralph Fiennes is wonderful, F. Murray Abraham is perfect (again) and Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum and Harvey Keitel are the best of the cameo parts. And yes, it’s a great distraction to take in at the big screen, a nice way to forget about life for 90 minutes or so. It’s not painful while it’s happening, only after when you step out into the real world and trip over the fawning, ridiculous praise that’s been flung at this by people who spend 90 minutes dressing and accessorising each morning. Any – and every – Wes Anderson Mise-en-scène has them clutching their ridiculously impractical satchel to their breast, their heart beating with pride. Finally, a movie for those of us who appreciate the finer things in a catalogue of second-hand finer things in life, someone who doesn’t at all understand us and isn’t trying but has made the world’s loveliest looking film (right now). And therefore the best (right now).
Oh blow it out your arse you facile smug fucks.