Release Date: 7th March 2014
Run time: 99 minutes
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Everyone ever
You know the drill by now when it comes to a Wes Anderson film; an embarrassingly talented ensemble cast playing a menagerie of odd-ball characters. Gloriously lavish sets basked in primary colours to deliver an aesthetic that is both old-timey and other-worldly. This brand of twee cinema has earned him the respect and adulation of many, and yet to his sterner critics he has been tarred with the one-trick-pony brush, a director who puts style over substance. Admittedly all the familiar elements are present and correct in his latest work, yet The Grand Budapest Hotel may be his most accomplished work to date.
A carefully cultivated story within a story, F. Murray Abraham recounts his time as lobby boy in the magnificent titular building, under the tutelage of Ralph Fiennes’ flamboyant concierge Gustave. Anderson often fills his films with these bizarre mentor-protege relationships, think Max and his chapel parter Dirk in Rushmore, or Royal and his stab-happy assistant Pagoda in The Royal Tenenbaums. Here we are finally given insight into how these kooky partnerships form as the director takes the time to deliver sufficient back story, as well as the one thing that his films are often criticised for lacking; a plot.
Where as most of his previous works have been quirky character studies, here he manages to create his normal world of tweed-clad whimsy with the added intrigue of murder and betrayal, which sees Gustave framed for the murder of a wealthy hotel guest. The addition of action is a welcome one. Filmed, as expected, with manic gusto- think of it as a live action Fantastic Mr Fox– there are also moments that are strikingly chilling. A scene in which Willem Dafoe stalks Jeff Goldblum through a shadowy museum is a particular stand-out. It shows the bravery of an established director not willing to rest on his laurels.
As well as branching out into new territory, there is a sense here that Anderson is fine tuning what made him so successful in the first place. His films have always been crafted with a loving attention to detail, but from lavish hotel lobbies to solitary mountaintop monasteries, this is his most beautiful film to date. The comedy has also been fine-tuned, thanks mostly to the impeccably judged turn from Fiennes. An actor not renowned for his comedic talent, Gustave’s sentences flow from poetic prose to spit-fire swearing with remarkable fluidity. He is a joy to behold, a character that will rightly join Royal Tenenbaum and Steve Zissou has one of Anderson’s most iconic.
Despite the eccentricities of his films, he is a director that has never shied away from difficult subject matters. These fantasy worlds are not immune to heartbreak, a fact clearly demonstrated in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here our narrator can barely bring himself to speak of his despair. When tragedy strikes it literally drains the colour out life. Despite their cartoonish nature, these are characters you come to care about, relationships you are invested in, there is an endearing method to their madness. The same can be said about their creator in his latest work, a piece that adds heart to the preposterous by finding truly tender moments amongst the chaos.