Wes Anderson’s movies are like carefully crafted homemade plays, from his very first Bottle Rocket (1996) which blended gangster film and Catcher in the Rye in a unique, heartwarming way, all through his latest, the sweet and decadent The Grand Budapest Hotel.
One could argue that the prolific director has a penchant for stories about loneliness and the search for identity is something that underlies all of his work. The protagonists in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007) all come from dysfunctional families with strong parental figures, that either neglected or abandoned their children, leaving them to ponder who they are and where they belong.
In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the two main characters, Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes in fine comedic form), the concierge, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy, both turn out to be orphaned, or with no family to speak of. Their bond comes from their mutual loneliness, perhaps, and they are given purpose by the hotel which in its heyday in the 1930s welcomed characters from all over Europe.
Perhaps Anderson’s most elaborate effort ever, The Grand Budapest Hotel is also his kitschiest, elevating his work to pure mastery, because a Wes Anderson film is more a demonstration of craftsmanship than anything else. It combines baroque inelegance with historical allusions and stereotypes about the Old Continent, and it does so with multiple narrative and technical devices such as jumping back, forth, and sideways in time and occasional stop-motion animation, among others. Anderson depicts Europe the way it is seen in the American imagination: as never changing and made up of sensual pleasures and pastries, strict manners and well-calibrated speech. Continue reading