Grand and grandiose
Eccentric filmmaker Wes Anderson engenders a loyal affection from his ardent fans. His last film, the Oscar nominated “Moonrise Kingdom” achieved both a critical and commercial peak for the writer/director known for an elaborately precise visual style and decidedly idiosyncratic characters. His latest, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” speaks to his fans, but lacks the heart and inspired wit of its predecessor. The tedious nature of Anderson’s storytelling makes him an acquired taste, and TGBH won’t win him any new fans.
But a director who cares this much about the detail in every frame must be unquestionably respected if not revered.
With a madcap frenzy TGBH recounts the adventures of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) a concierge known for his affability and affection for older, rich, blonde women. The story is told in flashback by the elder Author (Tom Wilkenson) who in his youth (Jude Law) traveled to Zubrowka a once divine European city now devastated by war. It is here in the once lavish Grand Budapest Hotel where all kinds of characters will intersect and a priceless Renaissance painting is stolen with a family fortune at stake– forming one primary story and what appear to be a million tangents.
As usual Anderson features countless cameos of A-list actors some only appearing for seconds and part of the fun is seeing who shows up where and how costumed. Anderson himself must combine attention-deficit and obsessive-compulsive disorders because his storytelling style is both impeccably detailed and unfolds at break-neck, wearisome pace. This can work as window dressing but as impressive as these elements are, there is not a lot of heart or depth of emotion going on. Even “The Three Stooges” and “Monty Python” for all their zany wackiness worked in some measure because they were character driven.
Fiennes is particularly adept at bringing nuance to his character and his respectful but often brutal relationship with his young protégée, lobby boy Zero (a sweet, guileless Tony Revolori) has some fanciful moments.
And that’s the thing about “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” There are hundreds of precious little moments but not much beyond extravagant artifice to sink your teeth into. That was a quality so inherent in “Moonrise Kingdom” that gave it a lovable quality to which, no doubt, audiences responded. This time around, Anderson’s work is an admirable one night stand, but doesn’t demand a return trip.
Rated R for language, (about 10 “F” words) some sexual content and brief nudity, and violence.