Director: Wes Anderson
- Directing 4/5
- Writing 4/5
- Cinematography 4/5
- Acting 3/5
- Production Design 5/5
Oscar Win for
- Best Costume Design
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling
- Best Original Score
- Best Production Design
Oscar Nomination for
- Best Picture
- Best Director
- Best Cinematographer
- Best Film Editing
- Best Original Screenplay
+ Production Design
+ Appears well thought out
– Writing is to blamed
– Slow pacing and not the most dynamic camera work
I have to admit that before watching this movie, I wasn’t the biggest Wes Anderson film. I had only seen bits of his stuff before and thought he was overhyped. After watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, I can still say I feel like Anderson is still somewhat overhyped.
I’m not arguing he is a bad filmmaker or trying to slam him, it’s just I fail to comprehend how beloved his style of filmmaking is to so many of his followers.
Before watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, I choose to read the script for a better understanding and comprehensive experience. Ultimately, I thought the script was a bit better than the actual movie. So what went wrong?
The plot essentially revolves around a story within a story. One of the protagonists is retelling his life revolving around the hotel to another character. In order for this to be effectively done, the actors must be chosen with care. The protagonist in question, Zero, who is retelling his story is whom I have a problem with.
Throughout the film, Zero’s dialogue cuts over the film. This is apparent in the trailer above. The actor’s manner of speaking doesn’t come across with the right feeling as a narrator.
If I was to retell a life event that happened to me years ago, I would not only describe it best I can, I would also be somewhat emotional. Not to say I’d be balling my eyes out; but, I’d have an emotional connection to the story I’m telling. The older Zero, who is narrating, doesn’t convey this connection to his past at all. Arguably the events of the film are some of the most dramatic in the character’s life. Why not have the actor read his lines with this sense of emotional connection to his character’s very plot?
Opposite this you have a performance by Ralph Fiennes who simply draws you in. The actor does a marvelous job capturing his character’s essence. His performance alone is a saving grace for the film.
I think most of my critiques for Anderson’s film stem from his writing. There is just something off about his characters and his choice to include certain elements that are unnecessary. The lack of any real character development leads to flat characters, thusly lacking in real audience engagement. Sure the cast is stacked with “interesting” people, this alone doesn’t carry the film though. The lack of having true characters the audience can relate to is a major flaw. I’m not arguing that we need to fully see ourselves in the characters presented to us. The Grand Budapest Hotel is filled with characters that simply have one or two traits, who in turn bounce off of each other’s traits. For example, Zero’s youthful innocence sets up scenes for M. Gustave to shine with his flamboyance. Yet at the end of the day, the characters don’t impact the viewer.
Heck a central plot point is Zero’s and Agatha’s love for each other. In fact, one could argue that this is ultimately the main underlying plot point, once you get past the whole art heist. This was a golden opportunity for Wes Anderson to really show dynamic characters by exploring that relationship.
Anderson does a great job with the setting, notably winning a deserved Oscar for Production Design. Instead of devoting oodles of money to CGI, Anderson’s technique is very reminiscent of older films. The establishing shots have a “flat” tone to them that not only screams low budget, but expertly captures the mood for this film. This is a movie that is essentially a really long flashback, more or less. An older Zero is recalling a past time of young manhood as he speaks with the Author, so why not have the setting also reflect that older quality?
The film’s cinematography is decent on the whole. While reading the script, it became clear that Anderson had specific framing in mind. Some shots are well thought out with certain angles in mind. For example:
Expert lighting is utilized to highlight the vibrant color palate chosen for props and wardrobe. Further, the cinematographer does a great job providing a clean look to the film overall, helping set The Grand Budapest apart from the other Oscar contenders. Look at this lighting:
The nomination for Achievement in Cinematography is deserved.
So why have I given Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel such a low rating? Maybe I’ve yet to grow to like Wes Anderson’s style. Personally for me, this film was one that was really hyped up by others. I knew Anderson had a following so I remained open to experiencing his style of cinema.
However, after watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, I felt completely unmoved. The movie itself was one I simply shrugged off due to lack of impact. Don’t get me wrong, I love clever wordplay as much as the next writer. The lack of action scenes also isn’t my problem. The film simply lacks in making a meaningful impact in entertainment. For some reason, the film comes across as an awkward art-house film for me.
Essentially put, the film fell flat. Going from reading the script to watching the film, I felt like the performance was forced. This ultimately bubbles down to lack of true character development and questionable acting. I would even go so far as to question some of the writing. For example, why have the little boy shooting the author at the start of the film. It simply doesn’t possess a meaningful reason for being part of the film.
Maybe I just need to give myself more time to appreciate Anderson’s style.
For further reading here is an article that critique’s Anderson’s style in depth.