The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)


I haven’t seen “The Grand Budapest Hotel” since its release in March. It’s a little weird to try and write about a movie six months after watching it, but it seems appropriate in this case.

“Grand Budapest” is a movie filled with details that don’t, ultimately, matter too much. I don’t mean this as a criticism. There is so much to admire in every scene, in every individual frame, that it’d be very difficult to keep track of everything while watching it for the first time. The main plot itself – about a concierge and a lobby boy framed for murder, which is actually surrounded by a plot, surrounded by another plot – moves briskly through dozens of characters, events, and locations, all the while adhering to Wes Anderson’s infamous, meticulous brand of visual storytelling. Each shot is delicately balanced, and when the camera moves and turns and follows, it does so with mechanical precision. None of this is unusual for Anderson, but the scope and setting of “Grand Budapest” make these visual choices feel particularly striking.

So, no, the details don’t matter in terms of enjoying the film. That doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. “Grand Budapest” just hopes you tag along while it races through its plot devices and cameos, and, if you’d like, you can pay closer attention to the ornamentation. But it’s not a requirement. The minutiae plays a crucial role in leaving a lasting impression on the audience, even if they don’t fully realize it.

I don’t know if that’s a statement that makes much sense, so I will try to clarify. “Grand Budapest" a ridiculous movie, and I remember being surprised at how funny it was. I really enjoyed it, but I had difficulty getting a handle on it as a whole. Now, it’s six months later, summer’s ending, and I’m trying to remember the films I saw this year, and when, and who I saw them with. And it’s made me realize that I was probably overthinking "Grand Budapest.” It’s a smart movie, but it isn’t hiding its most important ideas. It opens with a girl reading a book, in which the author recounts a story told to him by another person, who lived through some really unbelievable circumstances. I missed the forest for the trees.

It’s a movie about storytelling. It’s about the ways we remember and forget things over time, and which details we hold onto and which ones we don’t. It’s about the people who leave an indelible imprint on our lives, whether we spent years or only a few hours with them. Many of the things that’ll seem important as they’re happening will fade away, and we’ll likely start to fudge some of the facts to compensate. Things will be misremembered or forgotten entirely.

I don’t remember the specifics of each scene in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” But I remember being impressed by its colors and its endless roster of great performances. I remember the film’s excellent musical score, and laughing every time Jeff Goldblum or Adrien Brody showed up. I remember who I saw the movie with, and what was going on in my life. And those people and events in my own life are certainly influencing my opinion of the film as I look back on it now. They all blend together.

I think it’s probably tough to evaluate any film, or anything, really, without involving our own stories. We often do it without realizing it. That’s what makes films so compelling, and that’s why “Grand Budapest” doesn’t care if you don’t keep up with every plot beat or costume change. If you remember it at all, it’s doing something right.


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