Film Review: Anomalous Anderson becoming more predictable

Anderson’s films are such that they defy categorisation and are constantly divisive, but not in the same way as the films of a provocateur like Lars Von Trier. 

Rarely challenging or controversial, Anderson’s relatively benign ‘comedies’ are such that you will sit, with a goofy grin etched onto your features, for the entire duration of the film – but only very rarely will your grin blossom into a laugh. 

And yet, to judge the likes of The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom against the latest Adam Sandler offering is to do Anderson an obvious disservice. 

 

Impeccably groomed 
Having fallen into disrepair, the Grand Budapest Hotel stands today as a forgotten testament to the cold brutality of 1960’s minimalist décor. 

But the story of impeccably groomed Gustave H (Fiennes), the chief concierge of the titular establishment, transports us back to the ´30s when the now empty halls and rooms once bustled with decadent activity – and Gustave took it upon himself to intimately service his well-monied, elderly female guests. 

One such client, played by a heavily made-up and barely recognisable Tilda Swinton, dies (or is murdered) shortly after departing the hotel and a dispute over her will and testament ensues. 

Accompanied by Zero (Tony Revolori), Gustave embarks on a journey to her family estate to lay claim to an inheritance that sees them pitted against fascist authorities, blood-thirsty killers and an intolerable lack of perfume.

 

Obsessively meticulous
Wes Anderson is something of an anomaly within cinema’s ancestry. If he were to have a relative, I’d be tempted to cite Jacques Tati or – despite obvious differences – Stanley Kubrick. 

The carefully-lensed hotel setting of this film lends itself ostensibly to comparisons with The Shining, but beyond that, there are also few directors who are as meticulous and controlling about every aspect of the filmmaking process, from production design to camera framings. 

Anderson’s films, like Kubrick’s, carry his signature in every department, sharing an obsession with symmetry and an affection for the academy aspect ratio. Furthermore, something about Fiennes’s clipped English, and this primarily physical comedy playing out against a backdrop of developing real-world events, put me in mind of Peter Sellars in Dr Strangelove.

Of course, Anderson’s whimsy doesn’t carry nearly the same weight as Kubrick’s satire.

 

Like a day at the museum
Anderson’s previous offering, Moonrise Kingdom, had me wishing he’d move on and do something less predictable. However, with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson has stayed his course – and shifted into a new gear with this European-set period film. 

He imposes his perverse sense of compositional order on increasingly chaotic happenings and the result is his most visually distinctive work yet. 

It briefly sags in the middle, but I’ll remember this film a series of paintings, most of them featuring a leather-clad, never-better Willem Dafoe as he and his comedy underbite (causing him to resemble Mutley of Wacky Races) cut a murderous path through the snowy landscape. 

See the film, if only for this.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

4/5 stars

Dir: Wes Anderson; US/Ger dramedy, 2014, 100 mins; Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe

Premiered March 27
Playing Nationwide