There’s an acute awareness of what to expect when walking into a Wes Anderson film — the filmmaker has firmly established and embraced his aesthetic, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be trying anything new any time soon.
In many ways his latest feature, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is the most Anderson-esque film yet. All of his signatures are prevalent throughout the film, and seemingly intensified tenfold.
There’s the elaborate attention to detail in the sets and costume, the deadpan sense of humor, use of the Futura font, the division of the film into chapters, and of course, a Bill Murray appearance.
But at the same time, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” sets itself apart from all of Anderson’s previous films.
It’s safe to say that the film is his most serious, with a deeply melancholy and tragic undercurrent that pervades every scene despite the whimsy, and leaves the viewer thinking about the film long after the lights have turned back on.
The structure of the film itself is a form never before seen in Anderson’s previous works. It begins in the present with a girl visiting the memorial of the author (Tom Wilkinson), clutching a copy of his memoir. She begins to read, and the author takes over, describing a time in which he visited The Grand Budapest Hotel in the late 1960s.
Located on a mountainside of the Republic of Zubrowska, a fictional Eastern European nation, the author recounts how he heard the hotel was once an institution of luxury and status that was never short of illustrious visitors.
It has since fallen to ruin now that Zubrowska is under the Communist regime, and is occupied by a handful of eccentric guests, the young author (Jude Law) being one of them.
The young author notices a new guest in the presence of the hotel, and is immediately intrigued by him. The concierge, Monsieur Jean (Jason Schwartzman), points out that the man is Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the owner of the hotel.
Moustafa invites the young author to dinner, and begins his long tale of how he came to inherit the hotel and why he keeps it open for business despite the institution’s faded glory.
The ‘real’ story then begins, with Moustafa recounting his time as a lobby boy at the hotel in 1932.
The lavish hotel is kept in pristine order by legendary concierge, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), who appoints himself as the mentor to a younger Moustafa (Tony Revolori).
Charming, attentive, surprisingly vulgar and sexually adventurous, Gustave is the reason visitors flock to the hotel.
It becomes known that much of the hotel’s success is due to Gustave’s penchant for bedding very rich and very old women.
One of these women, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), is found murdered in her house and she bequeaths a priceless Renaissance painting to Gustave, to the fury of her diabolical son Dmitri (Adrien Brody).
Gustave is then framed for the murder, and an adventure ensues, involving thievery, murder and jailbreak amongst other wild events.
Anderson has a penchant for creating an enclosed environment for his movies — the dreamy, quirky qualities that critics both revere and detest remove his films from reality and place them in an unattainable, almost fantasy-like vacuum.
Anderson’s awareness of this removal is very apparent here, as the threat of World War II is imminent throughout the plot, and this is what lends the film its emotional depth.
There’s a yearning for a lost golden age from both Gustave and the older Moustafa, and a questioning of whether that age ever existed beyond the realms of sentiment and memory.
Further enhancing the film are the outstanding performances.
Fiennes’ comedic timing is impeccable, and newcomer Revolori is able to hold his own, and at times even outshine the large cast of seasoned actors.
Side characters such as Moustafa’s baker sweetheart Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), the hitman thug Joplin (Willem Dafoe) and multiple appearances by stars including Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Lea Seydoux and Owen Wilson, are nothing short of delightful.
Like most of the films in his resume, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a beautiful, funny, yet also nostalgic and tragic adventure, and it’s truly a testament to Anderson’s unique skills as a filmmaker.
RECOMMENDED: Whether you hate or love Wes Anderson, there’s no denying the physical and emotional beauty of his latest work.
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