The Grand Budapest Hotel written and directed by Wes Anderson (Scott Rudin Productions, Indian Paintbrush, Studio Babelsberg, R, 100 min)

Starring 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, Owen Wilson, and Tony Revolori.

The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders

Anyone prone to independent film ought to know the Wes Anderson brand well enough. The hyper realism. The cheeky humor. The cinematic jokes. Anderson’s work might be one of the most distinctive in Hollywood. And, Wes Anderson became the source for my favorite SNL short last year, actually.

So it’s interesting to see Anderson play with his signature elements in fascinating ways during The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Let’s Take a Train to Old Europe

Set mainly in between the World Wars in Zubrowka, high in the European mountains. M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), a renowned concierge runs, an elegant hotel. He hosts many elite and well-to-do women at the hotel and befriends a trusty lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori).

When one of Gustave’s most beloved guests perishes, Gustave and Moustafa head to town to pay their respects only to learn that the wealthy-yet-deceased Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton) listed Gustave in her will as the recipient of a priceless painting, “Boy with Apple.”

With her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and his henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) trying to pin Madame D.’s death on Gustave, the hilarious hijinks begin in earnest.

Wes Anderson-y

While the performances are pristine—especially for Ralph Fiennes, Anderson’s odd-ball humor mixed against a somewhat dark and sinister plot offer true joy.

For starters, Anderson plays with aspect ratio to differentiate between eras as we see scenes set in present day where a young girl celebrates a European writer who penned the novel on which the narrative is based, scenes in the 1960s between an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) and the young writer (Jude Law), as well as the main thrust of the narrative that has already been presented.

Secondly, Anderson enjoys playing with the viewer’s sense of narrative pacing. There are many examples of this aspect but one I particularly enjoy involves M. Gustave and Zero running away from some pursuers. Right in the middle of this pursuit, both stop to engage in a dramatic discourse on their relationship. The dialogue offers a critical element to the depth of character and for the rest of the narrative to come, yet the viewer’s internal thought process screams for the characters to run!

These little jokes make Wes Anderson movies must-see. The stories are quirky; the pastel palette immediately signifies what you are about to see. Even with a dark undertone to the story, The Grand Budapest Hotel represents another sterling chapter in the Wes Anderson canon.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

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