With the now-signature use of primary and pastels, an overly (but warranted) eccentric soundtrack, and a cast of characters bigger than anything Lars von Trier might hope to naughtily accomplish, The Grand Budapest Hotel is not only another worthy addition to an already amazing body of work, but a stand-alone example that Wes Anderson makes some of the best movies of our generation.
The Grand Budapest Hotel takes us back in time to the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, a quasi-European state about to be taken over by quasi-Nazis during a quasi-world war. Quasi-interested? During its heyday, the Grand Budapest was a magnificent hideaway for the upper crust of society, an opulent alpine lodge designed to provide any conceivable comfort to its many annual visitors. At the helm of this all is the hotel’s playboy concierge, Monsieur Gustave H. (Fiennes), a tireless devotee to the entertainment and well-being (in more ways than one) of the hotel’s many, and often elderly, patrons. One such woman, Madame D. (Swinton), takes an intense liking to Gustave on her final night at the hotel and, Gustave being Gustave, beds her before the night is out. One month later, Madame D. passes away leaving an incredibly valuable painting called “Boy With Apple” to Gustave in her will, much to the dismay of her family, who have no idea who Gustave even is.
Gustave’s new hire, a quirky yet sharp lobby boy named Zero Moustafa (Revolori), comes under his wing as both a dutiful protegé and an unlikely friend, accompanying Gustave as he attempts to take possession of the fabled painting from Madame D.’s irate son, Dmitri (Brody). What ensues is an entirely enjoyable, madcap romp which oftentimes feels like an old Pink Panther movie; equal parts campy humor and slap-happy action! The pairing of Fiennes and Revolori is spot-on and despite the age difference, you could easily see these two as a brilliant duo in future films. Their on-screen magic is one of the best pairings since Murray and Schwartzman in Rushmore.
As I mentioned earlier, Anderson manages to bring a ton of talent to the table in The Grand Budapest Hotel. With many of the characters only sharing a few minutes of screen time each, you’ll see Wes Anderson “staples” such as Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, and Willem Dafoe, as well as newcomers Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkenson, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Saoirse Ronan, and of course, Ralph Fiennes.
Anderson is once again a master of his craft, making precisely the kind of movie that he wants to make. He doesn’t set out to hide the fact that he likes his movies to look, feel, and act a certain way. With an almost predictable yet mysterious plotline filled with the usual Anderson-esque themes of love, betrayal, loss, death, and revenge, The Grand Budapest Hotel had me laser-locked from the minute the film began to roll. Nothing quite makes an Anderson film like his lightning fast dialogue, with more zip, zang, and zing than you can shake a stick at. Wes has proven over and over again that he not only has a preternatural ability to create witty and uncompromising dialogue, but that he can translate it to the screen and through his actors in a way that brings the final product forth in a wholly relatable and endearing manner to the audience. Extremely “inside” would be one way to describe Budapest’s humor, but it never requires a PhD in comedy for one to heartily enjoy its oft-deadpan genius. I sometimes refer to Wes Anderson films as the funniest dramas I’ve ever seen.
If you are a Wes-Fan and never miss a flick when it comes out, do yourself a favor and check-in to you local cinema tonight for a viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s easily one of Anderson’s best films to date and a rollicking good time from beginning to end. If, on the other hand, you are freshmen to the universe that IS Wes, it may take more than one sit-through to come up to speed. Most folks started out way back in 2001 with The Royal Tenenbaums and have had plenty of time to learn the ropes for these kinds of movies- where it is they want to take you, and how to appreciate the cleverly crafted nuances and abundant fan-serviced situations that make Wes Anderson movies, well, Wes Anderson movies.
Among next year’s Oscar contenders, The Grand Budapest Hotel would surprise me if it stood shoulder to shoulder with establishment giants. This of course would not be of its own volition. Ralph Fiennes’ immaculate work as the almost-antihero, Gustave H., is not only worthy of an Oscar nod, but a true testament to classical acting in general. As this is a movie impeccably shot with an attention to detail that demands multiple viewings and an amazing ensemble cast, The Grand Budapest Hotel has winner-winner-chicken-dinner written all over it. That said, Hollywood’s Streep-happy voting pool might think differently, so I won’t hold my breath until next season. With the added and amazing young talent embodied by both Ronan and Revolori (whom I hope will return in future Anderson jaunts), The Grand Budapest Hotel is both a pleasure to watch and breath of fresh air in an oftentimes stuffy and repetitive film world. The Grand Budapest is quite simply a Grand Slam!