It’s probably safe to say there are more people who love Wes Anderson’s films than hate them. I’m of the former group, but I do have friends who are in the latter. They’re the grumpy folks who have no use for whimsicality or bright pastel colors or symmetrical camera shots or casts of eccentric characters or stories that zig and zag all over the place yet don’t get confusing.
I do have use for that sort of movie, as do all those Anderson-lovers who have seen “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” over and over, have developed a deep but goofy appreciation of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and were probably kinda disappointed with his one miss – “The Darjeeling Limited.” Anderson’s most recent film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” was a critics’ darling, and did well at the box office, but – my opinion only – it lacked his usual panache. He’s back in form, though, with “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a film that freely jumps around in space – mostly throughout a fictional central European locale – and time – I noticed mentions of the years 1985, 1968 and 1932 (when most of this takes place), but there might also be a contemporary scene (it really doesn’t matter). Onscreen words sometimes mention “three days later” or “one month earlier.”
The titular hotel, tucked away in the remote mountains of Zubrowka, and seemingly reachable only by an incredibly steep funicular, was once a grand hideaway for the wealthy, but is now (in 1985?) referred to by its owner (wait, is he the owner or the manager?) as “an enchanted old ruin.”
Though the film, as a whole, is a wonderful swirl of storytelling, its one through line is the tale of how young, wide-eyed Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), under the tutelage of smooth, flashy, fastidious, by-the-books, “liberally perfumed” hotel concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), works his way up from lobby boy in training to concierge to (possibly) owner.
The cornucopia of other stories included here involves murder most foul, a mystery letter, young romance, a devious art theft, more murder, delicious pastries and a meticulous and ridiculous jail break. These and more are told, via snappy, zippy dialogue and the antics and actions of an astounding cast, many of whom are only in cameo roles. Aside from relative newcomer Revolori and Fiennes, whose inspired verbal and physical comic timing have opened up a previously unexplored area of acting for him, we get, alphabetically: F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe (wearing really scary face and rings), Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson and Owen Wilson.
On top of that fine gaggle of actors, doing what they do best for Anderson, for whom writing and directing and storytelling are what he does best, the film offers intermittent narration to sort of keep things in order; a happy and poppy musical soundtrack that’s confoundingly similar to what Mark Mothersbaugh used to compose for Anderson’s earlier films – but it’s done here by Alexandre Desplat; lots of trains going to and fro; lots of people running around, as fast as they can; a sweetness that’s somewhat counterbalanced by a bittersweetness; and in one of my favorite sequences, a comic barrage of punches to the face, reminiscent of what Popeye used to do to Bluto after downing a can of spinach. Yes, my tastes are strange, but at least I’m whimsical.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Written and directed by Wes Anderson With Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, many others Rated R