The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori, Larry Pine, Giselda Volodi, Florian Lukas, Karl Markovics, Volker Michalowski, Neal Huff, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens, Wallace Wolodarsky, Waris Ahluwalia
R for language, some sexual content and violence
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Despite having been making films since 1996, it wasn’t until his meditation on young love in 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom that I finally started to appreciate the work of Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel is his latest visual triumph, taking a quirky and irreverent look at murder mysteries as only Anderson can.
Ralph Fiennes stars as Monsieur Gustave, a legendary hotel concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, the former go-to destination of the obscenely wealthy. The story looks back at the man and the murder mystery that threatened to destroy everything he’d worked his whole life to accomplish.
Superb in the lead role, Fiennes showcases a talent for drama and comedy that has been woefully absent in his recent outings. Being surrounded by some of the finest working ensemble players Anderson has ever assembled, we’re treated to a resplendent caper that involves cross-country flights, prison breakouts and a treacherous group of slighted family members on a quest to bring down M. Gustave and the exceptionally rare painting bequeathed to him by his late benefactor (Tilda Swinton).
This is Fiennes first time in an Anderson film while others like Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Edward Norton have been in more than a few. Each knows precisely what Anderson wants and expects and deliver each time without issue. Also noteworthy is Jeff Goldblum (his second film with the director) as the suspicious executor, Tilda Swinton (second outing) as the aging benefactor, Tony Revelori (first time with Anderson) as M. Gustave’s incredibly young protégé Zero, Saoirse Ronan (also a first-timer) as young Zero’s bakery-employed paramour, and Willem Dafoe (a third-timer) as the menacing assassin trying to take out M. Gustave and anyone who stands in their way.
Anderson has long excelled at controlling a large ensemble in ways that the likes of Robert Altman, who focused equally on drama and comedy, and Paul Thomas Anderson, who focused entirely on dramatic casts, would be enviable. His penchant for bizarre moments fuel his comic genius, pulling us into a thoroughly incredible world that teems with life and sentiment even if much of the humor is played to dramatic effect. His films look on life with a ruddy, whimsical eye that exposes both the depravity and the absurdity of it all.
With the stunning score by Alexandre Destplat topping the superlative technical aspects of the film, this is probably his most visually accomplished, easily outstripping the likes of Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Adam Stockhausen’s delicious scene design, Milena Canonero’s astute costuming, and Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier’s lively hair and makeup effects each provide the film with a seemingly effortless style and panache that would appeal greatly to the outlandish, but grounded M. Gustave were he a real person.
Having been entranced by so many Anderson films in the last couple of years, it’s time to go back and refresh my memory on films like Rushmore, which I haven’t seen in some years and catch the handful I’ve previously missed. The Grand Budapest Hotel may be a perfect gateway film to bring those unfamiliar with Anderson’s work into his satirical and resplendent universe and hope for a small cottage there on the outskirts.
March 30, 2015