Each time I saw the trailer for this I thought it inconceivable that anybody might shoot an entire movie in a box-frame ratio. My fears were assuaged when Wes Anderson’s blithering new flick opened in orthodox envelope – but then, after the storyteller has introduced the narrator (it’s complicated), and we flashback to the period in which events take place, the 1930s, sure enough the picture is a square, and remains so for the duration.
Incredibly, the indulgent formatting did not bug me in the least, so perhaps what kudos is due should be shared by cinematographer Robert Yeoman and Stephan O Gessler, the art director.
I’ve always enjoyed Anderson’s films but it struck me during this laboured effort that what appealed to me was the image, the design, the meticulous eye with which his pictures are constructed. He is, I have belatedly concluded, a very modern champion of style over content.
The story concerns M Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at the once-was-ritzy Budapest Hotel, and his inheritance/theft of a famous Renaissance painting.
Dmitri (Adrien Brody) believes that the painting – and ownership of the hotel – is rightfully his, so he pursues Gustave and the lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) to attain both.
Fiennes, a toffy-nosed actor, is ideally suited to the part, but he does not inspire affection. Nor does anyone else, as Anderson typically opts for a cast of big-name stars (Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton et al) to carry the day by more or less hamming it up as themselves.
There are some good sight gags, mostly of the prat-fall and zany silent-movie variety, but overall I found it quirky to the point of glibness, although I did get a laugh out of Gustave’s description of somebody as ‘shaking like a shitting dog’ (must remember to use that).
Sets and costumes are great, but I was not in the least surprised to see a walk-out at the session I attended.
The harder it tries, the sillier it gets.
~ John Campbell