When the theater lights darken, there is no doubt that you’re entering the world of Wes Anderson. His latest film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is a welcome cinematic confection. Whether it’s the visually stunning art direction, the heavily stylized voice-overs or the cadre of recognizable actors from previous films, Anderson’s eccentric storytelling has distinguished him as one of the most gifted filmmakers of his generation. The director uses every conceivable trick to make this essentially screwball comedy unfold like a magical pop-up book. Stylistically, Anderson is at the top of his game. He embraces a youthful spirit in his films that make them amusingly quirky but also poignant at the same time. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is worth checking into for a delightful romp.
The story is told in different time frames starting with an elderly writer (Tom Wikinson) being pestered by his grandson as he recollects his time at the Grand Budapest Hotel as a young writer (Jude Law). Tucked away in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, the hotel has fallen on hard times during the 1960s. It is here that he meets Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the proprietor of the mountain resort. The two sit together for an elegant dinner where he reminiscences about his early days at the hotel during the 1930s. He eagerly begins his job as a young lobby boy known as Zero (Tony Revolori) under the tutelage of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave is exceptional as the hotel’s concierge. He is so good at servicing the guests at the hotel like Madame D. (played by the unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) that it’s not unusual for him to sleep with these wealthy matrons. “She was dynamite in the sack, by the way,” Gustave fondly recalls. “She was 84,” exclaims Zero in disbelief. “I’ve had older,” he replies back.
When Madame D. passes away under mysterious circumstances, Gustave is summoned to her estate where he discovers that she bequeaths him a valuable piece of artwork. This startling revelation in her will sets this whodunit comedy farce into motion. The deceased matriarch’s family doesn’t take kindly to the news, especially the venomous son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) who sics the family’s henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe) after him. With the help of Zero and his girlfriend Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), they do everything they can to save Gustave from this diabolical predicament. Fiennes is sensational in the lead role that almost went to Anderson’s first choice Johnny Depp. Revolori holds his own as the resourceful apprentice. Ronan once again delivers an impressive performance. She works at Mendl’s bakery creating pastries as pink and detailed as the hotel itself.
It’s always a treat to see the eclectic list of actors who show up throughout Anderson’s movies. Of course there is a cameo from Bill Murray, as well as other quirky appearances from Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Swartzman, Owen Wilson and even the French actress Lea Seydoux as a sultry chambermaid. Not one of these characters appears out of place. As an actor, it must be a lot of fun to get lost in one of Anderson’s colorful characters. Although the film is a comedy at heart, the story is tinged with melancholy. Anderson is showing an innocent time in history lost to impending war. Although there are no Nazi or Soviet bad guys in Anderson’s fable, the eruption of violence brilliantly separates the charm of the hotel from the profound darker undertones happening outside the main plot. It gives this well-crafted story a delicate and affectionate balance.
If you’re an admirer of Anderson’s work such as ‘Rushmore,' ‘The Royal Tenebaums’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ you don’t want to miss his latest achievement. His films seem to get progressively better and it’s a pleasure to watch a filmmaker at the top of his craft. Even the vibrant cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman and the moody score by the French composer Alexandre Desplat enhance the film’s palette. You’ll be glad that you checked into ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.’ Here is the official trailer http://youtu.be/1Fg5iWmQjwk. Own it on DVD http://www.foxsearchlight.com/TheGrandBudapestHotel/.