Wes Anderson is not quite a real person. He is more of a concept. He is more of a myth or an approximation of reality, much like Citizen Kane was an approximation of the infamous newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Anderson is real, but has built up a kind of fantasy world around himself. It is full of precisely detailed artifice. His films all have the meticulous perfection of an alternate reality. If the average uninitiated person were exposed to all of Anderson’s films, they wouldn’t quite know what to make of it. Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, The Royal Tannenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom all exist somewhere other than the real in some degree. It is a close approximation of reality, but it seems far more precious and rare. They are all fables of a sort. The early films like Bottle Rocket and Rushmore seem a little more normal, but more and more it becomes clear that Wes Anderson is creating a world of his own. This makes him special.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the most grandiose, complex, involved, convoluted, yet simply enjoyable and lighthearted of all his films. One sure sign of the labor of love a Wes Anderson film becomes is to see how many great names that take small but integral parts of the story, and they include Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Bob Balaban and Jason Schwartzman, to name a few. The cast is led ably, one could say brilliantly, by Ralph Fiennes as M.Gustave, the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel. The story is intricate with many layers that are unfolded and uncovered as the mystery is unfurled. It is far too elaborate to relay in a simple review. In fact, each and every shot is full of enough information to fill a whole movie on its own. I will try to cover some of the basics.
Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) is a brand new lobby boy, which is how the very rich older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) remembers how his life began. He tells this to the young writer (Jude Law) who later becomes a national treasure (Tom Wilkenson). M. Gustave runs the wonderful institution that is the hotel as if it is his own precious possession. Most of the guests come for his many services, some of which are exceedingly personal. One of the guests, Madame D (Tilda Swinton) dies, and her will sets off a mad, feverish, and highly personal fight for the proceeds. Her son, Demitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Adrien Brody) is a brutish and imperious heir who takes every attempt at a slight personally and employs a psychopathic thug , J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe), to do his bidding. M. Gustave winds up in jail accused of murder and it is up to Zero, who has become a close confidant, to execute a rescue and an escape from prison. As I said, this is the most minimal explanation of what transpires. If you want more, go to the movie or google it. Also as said before, each shot is perfect. The details that speak volumes include the color palette, locations, costumes, facial hair, makeup and props of every kind from vehicles to essential plot points like the painting, “Boy with Apple”.
Now I feel it is important to say that his films have a certain distance and removal from reality (which is kind of the point). That is part of their charm and uniqueness, but it also can prevent some people from being absorbed in the characters. I would have said that Rushmore is my favorite Wes Anderson film because the characters are so vivid and real. I can say the same thing about the characters in The Grand Budapest Hotel. They all feel very real and vivid on a much broader scale. The story is totally involving and fun. I like all of Anderson’s films, but in many ways The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most fun. The events are sometimes very dire and intense, but the pace and tone are so brisk and effervescent that every moment is a pleasure. It is, from start to finish, an entertainment, and a grand one.