This weekend has been very movie heavy for me, with my Saturday night friend date to see The Grand Budapest Hotel topping it all off perfectly. I saw it at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, a place I recommend like crazy. It is an old restored art deco theatre about half an hour from Boston proper in (you guessed it) a neighborhood called Coolidge Corner.
It’s hard to not know you are watching a Wes Anderson movie. There are certain elements and certain techniques that he employs that make it impossible to watch it and not notice that you are watching something very atypical (and gorgeous). Anderson movies have always had that quirky, dreamy, color-saturated quality that his devotees find so appealing, but The Grand Budapest Hotel shows each of his trademarks at their highest and most coherent pitch. The whole film is practically gift-wrapped and tied with a pretty blue bow. And unwrapping it is beyond enjoyable, laughter-inducing, and sad. Here are some of my favorite elements:
First, the artistic elements. Each shot, and I do mean each and every shot, is intricately planned out and coherent. The character’s clothing, the background coloring, and the placement of the bodies in each shot contains as much attention to composition as any master artwork. The cinematography is odd and brilliant, with puppets, graphic elements, and animation popping up here and there. Yet it never feels out of joint and is not even intensely noticeable. A puppet or an animation might be employed to show Zero and Gustave H. in a cable car going up a mountain, but that very contrived moment still fits in seamlessly and passes before the audience really notices what is going on.
Second, the acting. I could easily print a list of the actors involved in this project and just leave it at that, but suffice it to say that there is a level of overplaying here that fits in perfectly with the bullet-fast dialogue and plot that seems to require an infinite amount of energy to keep up with. Everyone is larger than themselves. They are not so much people as ideas, and yet they are relatable enough to cause a sigh when one is unceremoniously bumped off or two of them fall in love.
Third, the humor. The best thing about the humor is that it is uncomfortable and sad and still funny. You laugh and feel a bit bad for laughing, but the jokes take you so much by surprise that you’re laughing before you realize that that cat just got thrown out a four story window. You are also tempted to believe you are watching a comedy for almost the entire movie. And then it ends and you realize you never really were. Instead, you were watching a dark nostalgia-fest comprised of many moments that are just too jarring not to laugh at.
All in all, I recommend this movie a lot. I recommend it even just based on the strength of the fact that I haven’t even mentioned the plot in all of my praising. And if I can review a movie at length, as I have done here, and not even hint at what it is about, you know there is a lot going on to recommend it.
My rating: Want It On My Shelf Forevermore.