“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Movie Review

     To say Writer/Director Wes Anderson is in a unique spot as a filmmaker would be an understatement.  Not unlike Quentin Tarantino, Anderson is in a position where he can independently finance and create films that utilize a style all his own.  Upon viewing any one of his works, it is immediately obvious he isn’t answering to any nervous film executives who may look to adjust his style for the mainstream.  Anderson’s new film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” indicates he has not only honed the intended look of his films, but perfected it as well.  Those who are familiar with his ever-growing filmography know of his unique cinematic talents as each shot is carefully and meticulously composed to allow for camera movements limited to straight lines and right angles.  This brand of camera work is always accompanied by exquisite settings that usually feature bright pastel colors and neatly arranged props that signify the time period of the story.  The resulting look reflects on simpler times, yet it grabs you instantly as each frame mandates a second viewing if not only to check in on the details you may have missed the first time. Perhaps it is the originality seen in every Anderson film to date that ensures him a literal troupe of A-list talent willing to take even the smallest of roles as many have become regulars within his growing list of work.

     “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tells the story of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge at the famous Grand Budapest Hotel who runs the hotel and caters to it’s guests nearly 7 days a week.  After early scenes that establish the film’s narrators, which include a young writer (Jude Law) and Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), we are introduced to Gustave H at the height of the famous European hotel’s success in the year 1932.  Gustave has just been introduced to a newly hired lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori).  We get an expansive look at the hotel during it’s hey day in which the well appointed rooms and fine dining lure repeat customers each season, thanks to the behind the scenes efforts of Gustave and his staff who live permanently on the premise. 

     One of the more notable guests of the hotel is Madame D. (an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton), a wealthy elderly woman who is one of many Gustave has slept with and maintained a relationship with over the years.  When Madame D is found dead in her estate, Gustave is summoned for the reading of her will.  Accompanied by Zero, Gustave arrives when her attorney, Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), is about to reveal it’s contents to an audience comprised of her extensive family, including her son, Dmitri (Adrian Brody).  Of course the family immediately balks at the idea of Gustave receiving anything and Dmitri soon suspects him of his mother’s murder, who was killed by poisoning.  Kovacs then reveals Madame D. has bequeathed a prized and valuable family treasure to Gustave, a painting called “Boy With Apple”.

     An angry Dmitri vows not to allow Gustave to take the painting, but Gustave and Zero go ahead and take the painting right of the wall where it hangs on their way out of the estate.  This causes a number of chain reactions within the story.  Dmitri convinces the local Inspector, Henckels (Edward Norton) that Gustave killed his mother and has him arrested for the crime.  Meanwhile, Dmitri dispatches his ruthless henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) to find the “Boy With Apple” painting before it is lost.  Anderson borders on the zany for most of the second and third act in which Gustave gains many friends within prison to aid him in his escape.  All of this culminates in a unique race to find the painting and an apparent second will that would vindicate Gustave as Madame D.’s killer.  Nearly every scene has the actors deliver lines deadpan, as if serious, but as an audience we laugh, even when the character himself isn’t trying to be funny.  It’s a very subtle brand of humor Anderson seems to have perfected as well.

     As always, Anderson populates the film with a number of unique and interesting characters.  While the film focuses on the exploits of Gustave and Zero, we meet numerous impactful people along the way. Notables include Ludwig (Harvey Keitel), a cell mate who skillfully helps plan the groups escape, and Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), Zero’s love interest who works at a pastry shop that plays a significant role in a number of events in the story.  The entire ensemble clearly loved being in the film and their final product indicates not only their skill, but the creative writing ability Anderson displays by constructing a film with so many layers and such fine detail.  Though Anderson has mastered his overall style and vision as a filmmaker with “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, I still find it to be his fourth best film, which is to say it is an outstanding piece of work, but he has done slightly better, particularly with his last film “Moonrise Kingdom”.  I think the logical next step is for Anderson to filter his style through subject matter he has previously not explored.  Save to say, the result will undoubtedly be familiar in a Wes Anderson sort of way, but comparable to nothing else.  GRADE: B+