There are times in life when one should reject the superficial nature of aesthetics. However, this should not stop one from recognising a piece of art, which, essentially, is what The Grand Budapest Hotel is.
Wes Anderson’s latest masterpiece recounts the story of an esteemed hotel concierge, Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), and his newly acquired protégé, Zero (Tony Revolori), who are on the run through the fictional Zubrowka after stealing a prized painting. Sound mad? Of course! With a charming multitude of panning shots, 90-degree whips, pastel colours and unfaltering symmetry, this is Anderson doing what Anderson does best.
Why then have so many critics vehemently vilified this wonder of a film? There are three possibilities: either they lack a developed retina, have undergone a lobotomy or have never seen a Wes Anderson film before – all of which are equally terrible occurrences.
The most common criticism that I have encountered is that while The Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit of a romp, it substitutes style for substance – ‘the story is all over the place’. It’s true that the plot is a bit mad. One moment we’re watching a farcical prison escape, the next we’re transported to an alpine monastery. So does the film jump all over the place? Yes, you blithering fools. That’s the point. But does this mean that the film lacks substance? Of course not.
The reason Wes Anderson has attracted such a cult-like following is because he chooses not to recognise a dichotomy between substance and style. His films are a testament to the fact that these two components do not need to be made mutually exclusive. Instead, what makes The Grand Budapest Hotel so striking is that it is the style of the film that intrinsically provides it with its substance. Therefore, if you’re simply going to analyse the plot, you can only ascertain half of the film’s excellence. The other half requires an appreciation for the subtleties of cinema.