After going through so many layers of flashbacks that I felt like I was being dropped down into the limbo from Inception in the first 5 minutes we find out that the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel is the story of a famous Eastern European hotel, once frequented by the obscenely wealthy of Europe’s upper crust in their search for opulence, and it’s most skilled concierge, M. Gustav H. (Ralph Fiennes). M. Gustav, a somewhat off kilter ladies’ man, finds himself the inheritor of a small fortune from the hotel’s owner and simultaneously accused of her murder. There are prison breaks, political intrigue as war is about to break out, murder mysteries, romance, and other unusual situations, and a who’s who cast filling even the smallest roles.
But none of it quite works.
Director Wes Anderson has had his style compared often to the comedy of the TV show Arrested Development even though he came first. And it’s not an unfair comparison, in a lot ways he constantly deals with the same kind of horribly dysfunctional characters and borderline surreal situations…but like the fourth season of Arrested Development it never seems to work for Anderson. All the farcical elements are present, all the preposterous setups all the dry comments and quick pacing. It has everything that should make for a good comedy. But it’s not funny. I counted the number of times I laughed during the movie: once. One laugh. That’s all I had for those two hours of my life I want back and will never have. And it was a fairly cheap joke.
I never am able to care about any of the characters, I never feel anything for any of the situations, I just sat there for two hours wondering, hoping, praying for a punch line that would tie it all together and make the whole thing hilarious in retrospect…such a moment never came.
And this has been the story of every Wes Anderson movie I’ve seen (Rushmore, Royal Tenebaums, The Life Aquatic,…) I keep going because each time it has all the right elements that should make for a wonderful witty slapstick. But every time nothing seems to work, at least for me. If you like Anderson’s previous works, you’ll probably enjoy this one, I just don’t understand why you would.