I rewatched The Grand Budapest Hotel a couple weeks ago, as it had snowed in Portland and I was feeling like I wanted a last dash of millennial pink hued winter. I also wanted to confirm if it was still my favorite Wes Anderson movie, and I’ve decided yeah I might as well go for it.
This is an atypical choice for me, as I call this one my favorite because I call this one the best, and I call it the best simply for structural and philosophical reasons, not emotional ones, and none of that is the usual way I go. But the thing about Wes Anderson movies is that I always enjoy them in the exact same way. For whatever reason (and I’m sure this says a lot about me), it is very comforting to me to have so much to look at and listen to, all arranged so tidily. His movies are just very pleasant for my brain, and they all have this quality, so I have to find something else that’s going to set one of them apart.
And that one is The Grand Budapest Hotel, because this is the only one where the aesthetics become the ethics. Andersons’s fastidious prettiness and charming wordplay is itself a central, force-generating concern of the main characters, and so the message aligns with the medium and my pattern-loving mind is made even happier. This movie also actually has something to say about anti-immigrant sentiments (nothing of course about women — there are 1.5 female characters here), and while having your showy dandy of a protagonist repeatedly stand up to a fascist police battalion not for self-aggrandizement but just alone in a train car, just on principle, is hardly new or bold, it is a surprisingly sturdy topic for a movie set in pastel paper cut-out mountains doused with powdered sugar.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is also rather bleak in a way I find heartening (yes probably add this to the character analysis on me), because it’s not hopeless about it. It acknowledges what may be futile but doesn’t see that as a reason to give up, darling. Still we try, this movie says, because in that we can be beautiful.