Not many filmmakers have the skill of creating worlds that Wes Anderson possesses. While his movies take place in our world, they seem other worldly. Whether it is the off-the-wall character, the obscure setting or the meticulous design, the filmmaker always knows how to create something different and yet utterly familiar. This is the case for his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which whisks us away to a far off land, almost sci-fi in the Wes Anderson sense, and introduces us to a web of some of his most interesting characters yet.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is like Anderson’s form of Inception in that the story is being told by the author (Tom Wilkinson) about his time as a young writer (Jude Law) when he stayed at the Grand Budapest Hotel and was told the story by the hotel’s proprietor, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). The story that Moustafa is telling is his time as the lobby boy when he was under the direction of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the meticulous and lavish concierge who ran the hotel like a ship.
Fiennes knocks the role out of the park as an almost Peter Sellers-esque character who you don’t know if he is fully serious or crazy. His character is made up of his mannerisms, the way he goes about himself and his poetic charm that gets him all the ladies (old ones that is).
Zero (younger version played by Tony Revolori) trains under Gustave as the lobby boy and takes his every word to heart. The interaction between Zero and Gustave is priceless and is in the vein of other adult/child pairings in Anderson movies (Schwartzman/Murray in Rushmore, Willis/Gilman in Moonrise Kingdom). I love watching Anderson create these friendships with these man-child adults and adult-like kids because of the contrast of the personalities. You have the adults making stupid, usually goofy decisions and the kids are the ones looking sane in the situation, it is a lovely role reversal.
The film takes a turn into a caper which is something I found new and refreshing for Anderson’s work. I don’t think he has done a murder mystery yet and he did it in true Anderson style because it revolved around the faux painting “Boy with Apple” and Gustave’s lover Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who as Zero remarked, “Was 84 you know?”
The slew of crazy characters includes Adrien Brody as Madame D’s inheritance clamoring son, WIllem Dafoe as his bodyguard, Harvey Keitel as Ludwig, a man Gustave befriends in prison, Edward Norton as the captain of the guard, Jeff Goldblum as Madame D’s lawyer and Bill Murray showing up yet again in an Anderson movie as part of a circuit of concierges.
The characters are truly that, characters. Each one has their own unique flavor and when put together they excel under Anderson’s script. This was his first film that he wrote solo and I couldn’t tell a miss at all. It still contained the same feel to it (give or take more nudity/swearing) and took you to a place that you never wanted to leave. When the film ended, I was sad because it seemed abrupt and felt like we could’ve stayed for another hour or so.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is another journey into a unique Anderson world, maybe his uniquest yet. You come for the Anderson aesthetics but stay for these characters that make you laugh and smile. While it still carries the feeling and look of a Wes Anderson picture, at the same time it is a film that everyone can embrace and is one that shows that this auteur has not lost a step yet.