Wes Anderson’s latest confection is as sweet on the surface as ever, consisting of pastel palettes and expected twee. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a movie you should see, although I would recommend a very … focused viewing.
The film begins in the late 1970s with a girl visiting a statue of a famous author. We are then introduced to this author (at an older age and played by Tom Wilkinson), who recalls a dinner he had when he was younger in the ‘60s (Jude Law) with an aged former Grand Budapest Hotel bellboy, Zero Moustafa (older age, F. Murray Abraham; younger, newcomer Tony Revolori). Zero tells a story of his days of work in 1932 in the service of a noble-hearted but slightly eccentric concierge named Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes).
This story is where the film finally settles. We learn that the Grand Budapest Hotel is located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowska, an alpine European country with buzzing, colorful energy. Compared to the faded shambles of the Grand Budapest in the ‘60s, the hotel in the ‘30s was a thing to behold, mostly thanks to the passion of M. Gustave. One thread of the plot that begins to unfold in the ‘30s involves an elderly hotel guest and lover of Gustave, played by Tilda Swinton, dying and posthumously bequeathing a priceless painting to Gustave, much to the shock and anger of the deceased’s avaricious son as played by the tight-lipped Adrien Brody.
Anderson asks for a certain level of indifference from his actors, but it’s fairly evident that his cast is having a swell time working on this film. There are elements of screwball here and there accompanied by zany dialogue that flits by quickly. Some of the younger actors, Revolori and Saoirse Ronan, are a bit too erratic and robotic when paired with Anderson’s direction, but the distraction is slight.
Fiennes makes “The Grand Budapest.” Who knew an actor so well known for his stoic intensity (not to mention experience playing the darkest wizard of all time) could give life to such a charming and witty character? Anderson is known for his inclusion of “flat,” seemingly apathetic characters, but here we have Fiennes at his most fun and effervescent as the Grand Budapest concierge. He showed surprising comedic ability in 2008 in the egregiously underappreciated dark comedy, “In Bruges,” and clearly Fiennes is continuing to stretch his limits.