A Wes Anderson movie is pretty easy to identify these days. There is a certain style that Wes Anderson brings that stays pretty consistent from movie to movie. If you see many straight on shots of delicately placed objects in the center of the screen you might be watching a Wes Anderson movie. If there are meticulously crafted sets, model work, or just placement of things in the frame then you might be watching a Wes Anderson movie. If Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, or Jason Schwartzman appear in the movie then you might be watching a Wes Anderson movie.
Anyway, there are clear signs of a Wes Anderson movie. Wes Anderson began his movie career with "Bottle Rocket" and right from the beginning he had some of his signature directorial touches in place. Well, the most obvious is in the casting. The movie features both Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson (and Andrew Wilson) who have become regulars in the cast of a Wes Anderson movie. The visuals in "Bottle Rocket" aren't quite what they would become in later movies, but the writing is very much the same. The humor in "Bottle Rocket" is much like the humor in any other Wes Anderson movie. The visual aspect of Wes Anderson's films really started with his second movie, "Rushmore" and really came into full bloom in his third movie, "The Royal Tenenbaums".
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is Wes Anderson's eighth feature film and it might just be his most Wes Andersony film yet. The whole look of the movie is unmistakeably Wes Anderson. Only Wes Anderson could make things look the way they do in this movie. Violence and gore, for example, have never looked so whimsical. I don't want to imply that there is a ton of violence and gore in this movie, but there are some small moments and they are filmed with the same kind of style that Wes Anderson applies to everything else. Comedy, drama, and violence are all treated equally in terms of style in this movie.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" also features nearly every cast member that has ever been associated with being in Wes Anderson films. Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson are here. Billy Murray is here. Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, and Bob Balaban are here. Wallace Wolodarsky and Waris Ahluwalia are here too. Basically, in terms of casting, this is a Wes Anderson extravaganza!
There are some newcomers to the Wes Anderson fold here as well. The most notable are F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Tony Revolori, and of course, Ralph Fiennes. Ralph Fiennes is an absolute delight as Gustave, the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel. Much of the story of the movie is focused on him and his charming ways. He charms his way into the lives of older women and adds charm to the lives of all working and staying at the hotel.
One of the people he particularly affects is Zero, a lobby boy at the hotel who is also the narrator of the story. Zero is played by F. Murray Abraham in the present day and by Tony Revolori in the past where the movie mostly takes place. This is the first feature film role for Tony Revolori and he does a great job with it. He absolutely fits right in with the rest of the Wes Anderson regulars and takes on the Wes Anderson style of comedy with ease. F. Murray Abraham is an accomplished actor already, but he has never done a Wes Anderson film before. It turns out his acting style and especially his voice are a perfect match for a Wes Anderson movie.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is such a Wes Anderson movie that it can feel a little too familiar at times. I mean, there isn't much new ground here covered by Wes Anderson. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is, in a way, typical Wes Anderson. This was a problem that, for me, has hurt at least one Wes Anderson movie in the past. I felt that his "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" stayed so true to his formula of film-making that it almost felt like he was just checking off boxes on a checklist of things to include in his movie. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" thankfully overcomes this feeling with great characters, a great cast, and a unique story and setting.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is Wes Anderson fully utilizing the talents he has learned from his career in film-making. All the classic Wes Anderson-isms are here and are done to technical perfection. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" never gets quite as serious as some of his other movies like "The Royal Tenenbaums" or "The Darjeeling Limited", but it still has a serious emotional edge to parts of its story. The movie is mostly a charming study of a quite interesting character and a funny comedy as well. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a great example of Wes Anderson's distinctive voice in the movie world and it shows that his style is still effective eight movies in.