Watching a movie inside of a great theater makes all the difference in the world. The one I was lucky enough to view Wes Anderson’s latest was The Landmark Theater in my home town of Minnesota. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the place because that’s not what you are here to read. I will say however, that this place itself could have been used as a prop piece in one of Mr. Anderson’s other features. It is a single room theater that just plays one title and it looks like an old classic movie house with a balcony section and red velvet floors. Ushers help show you to your seat and there is a full bar upstairs. In most theaters they will play tons and tons of commercials before the trailers even begin. In here once the lights go dim, the previews begin. I mention this theater because it really helped me enjoy this movie. I don’t think I would have had the same reaction if I watched it somewhere else. That’s not to say that you won’t enjoy this in a regular theater because you may. But for me it felt like I was in that place with those characters. I liked spending time with these fictional people and enjoyed watching them on screen. I just didn’t love so much the story they were telling
Without getting all spoilerific on you. The Grand Budapest Hotel starts off with a young girl reading a book by an author(Jude Law) who comes to the hotel of which the movie is named for in the late 60’s. The place has fallen on hard times due to the war and while there. He meet the owner Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and he begins to tell him his story of how he became the sole owner of the establishment. In the mid 30’s Zero is just a lobby boy(Tony Revolori) who befriends the hotel’s concierge M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). The man has a love of the older variety of women and comes into trouble when his latest conquest. The one aptly named Madame D (Tilda Swinton) shows up dead and he gets blamed for it. What happens next is both Zero trying to bust Gustave out of prison while also trying to help prove his innocence.
The cast in this are all good including a very funny performance by Ralph Fiennes as the role of Gustav, Edward Norton as Henckels, Adrien Brody as Dimitri, Saorise Ronan as Agatha, and Tony Revolori as the young Zero. I just wished that there was more time to establish each of their backgrounds and that’s hard to do in a two hour feature. It felt like there were too many characters to hold in just one movie. I was mostly impressed with the characters themselves instead of watching them in this particular story. I do hope that Mr. Anderson revisits this place and characters again because it would be fun to see them in something else then the plot I was presented with. This has the potential to be a really good television series instead of just being a movie.
The production design work of the hotel in both the 3o’s when it is flourishing and the 60’s when it is decaying, is just amazing. Adam Stockhausen does some amazing work on this picture and I hope that Oscar voters remember it when making their picks for next years telecast. I also liked that when it takes place in the present with Zero as an older man. The aspect ratio is widescreen 2:35 but when it goes back to when he is younger. It goes to a regular 1:33 aspect. This makes sense because a lot of films from that era would have used that same type. Director Anderson and cinematographer Robert D Yeoman use a lot of their talents in creating this visually lush environment that I could forgive some of the faults of the pacing in the story. This may be my own fault because I have never read the works of Stefan Zweig whose works have inspired this particular screenplay. If you are a Wes Anderson fan I do recommend checking it out. For me it was more inline with something like The Darjeeling Limited rather then The Royal Tenenbaums, but you may feel entirely different.
The Good. Incredible visuals and a good cast of characters.
The Bad. The main plot itself is rather weak.
The Beautiful. The birthmark that Agatha(Saorise Ronan) has on her face.