The Grand Budapest Hotel
Few filmmakers working today craft more meticulously calculated pictures these days than Wes Anderson. The mise-en-scène of his films is so colorful, so detailed and so layered that it invokes a euphoric sense of wonder, as if you've walked into an exquisite dollhouse that's come to life. Often times, you're so infatuated with one element of a particular shot that you miss a variety of details occurring simultaneously, and that's all part of the fun.
His latest picture, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," might be his most complex and playful film yet; a film so deliciously twee that you feel guilty for craving more of it once the credits begin to roll.
Ralph Fiennes stars as Gustave H., a concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, located in the Republic of Zubrowka, in 1938. While he is the most diligent and charming employee of the staff, he is also known as a womanizer, particularly for "older, superficial, blonde women." After his most recent affair with the wealthy Madame D. (a hilariously putty-faced Tilda Swinton), she turns up dead and Gustave is framed for her murder, resulting in a whimsical series of madcap adventures set within a time in which the country of Zubrowka is on the brink of war.
This is also told in flashback from an interview that a young author (Jude Law) has with the owner of the hotel, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who is revealed to have been Gustave H.'s most trusted lobby boy. In the late 1930s, he is known as Zero and is played by newcomer Toni Revolori, who bonds with Gustave H over the quirky sequence of events that they embark on in order to prove his innocence.
Of course, as with any of Wes Anderson's films, this summary doesn't even begin to scrape the surface in terms of properly conveying how wacky and delightfully funny this film is. The appearances from Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Adrian Brody, Saoirse Ronan, and Harvey Keitel among others make the film a joyous affair, and even if they're only on screen for a brief amount of time, the amount of charm they provide is rich enough to savor for the entire course of the picture.
It's also the fastest paced of Anderson's films, operating like an eclectic funhouse of set-pieces, gags and surprises. In this case, it gives him less time to develop his characters, but it provides the viewer with the thrill of seeing what eccentric route he decides to take them down next. Everything from a high-speed pursuit on a ski-slope to an elegantly choreographed prison break is executed with Anderson's idiosyncratic precision that never ceases to surprise or amuse us, often at the same time.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" doesn't quite have the emotional poignancy of Anderson's previous film, "Moonrise Kingdom"; it's bittersweet epilogue feels almost a bit too abrupt. That being said, it's still a cinematic treat to behold, and as with the rest of Anderson's filmography, it's bound to offer plentiful rewards to viewers upon repeated viewings.
So go book your reservation and let the film overjoy you with its "exceptional service" in being the first great film to be released in 2014.