Over the course of eight films Wes Anderson has developed a style that is absolutely singular. He spins worlds out of the smallest details with an idiosyncratic style that some call twee and overly theatrical, but whatever you call it, one thing is clear: No one makes movies like Wes Anderson.
In his latest project, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” he has once again created a movie that future film scholars will coin terms like Wesesque or Andersonian to describe.
Told in flashback, the movie is like a nesting doll, a story within a story, with in a story. Beginning in present day Tom Wilkinson plays The Author, an older man reflecting on one of his greatest books, the story of M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the legendary concierge at the Grand Budapest
Cut to the late 1960s. The Grand Budapest is no longer so grand, the home to a handful of tenants left over from the place’s glory days. One visitor is the Author, now a young writer played by Jude Law. One day in the steam bath he meets the hotel’s enigmatic owner Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Moustafa agrees to tell the writer the story of the hotel and the legendary Gustave H over dinner.
Flashback to 1932, the heyday of the glamorous hotel. Gustave H rules the place with an iron hand when he isn’t sleeping with the older female guests. A flamboyant gigolo he has a special connection with Madame D (Tilda Swinton), an insecure but impossibly wealthy woman who has fallen for his unctuous charms.
When she is found dead at her home, Gustave H and his most trusted employee, Lobby Boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), visit to pay respects. At the reading of the will Gustave H is endowed with a priceless painting much to the displeasure of the deceased woman’s family. Angered, her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) frames Gustave H for murder.
Amid a whirlwind of hired henchmen (Willem Dafoe), helpful concierges (Bill Murray and Bob Balaban), talented chocolatier (Saoirse Ronan), tattooed criminals (Harvey Keitel) and mounting war on the continent, Gustave H is captured and jailed. With the help of his trusted Lobby Boy, must escape and clear his name.
In keeping with Anderson’s style, the story of Gustave H and the hotel is rich with nuance and detail but never feels overwhelming or tiresome. It’s a wittily whimsical story that feels transported in from a bygone era. It’s funny and elegant, feeling like a throwback to the Ealing Comedies complete with social commentary, farce and laugh-out-loud situational comedy.
At its twee little heart is Ralph Fiennes in a strangely mannered performance that not only provides many of the film’s best moments—his Benny Hill style escape from the police is hysterical—but also it’s heart.
Like the movie itself, the performance is original, unexpected and oddly affecting.
With “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson has found a balance between his highly stylized artistic vision, story and heart.