Since the dawn of cinema, many filmmakers have left an indelible mark in the film industry for they employed a number of tricks or styles that made their motion pictures stand out from the rest. And in their attempt to do the same thing differently, they didn’t only influence a wide range of filmmakers who followed them or were inspired by their works but those directors’ signatures & trademarks also pushed the art of filmmaking forward with time. Every director has his or her own way of shooting a film; some employ unedited long single takes, others use swiftly edited sequences. Some present a certain theme in all their films, others present a discrete visual look. Some make heavy use of non-linear narration, others prefer a streamlined, simple version of a story. And the list just goes on.
And so when it comes to director Wes Anderson, there is only one thing that’s present in every single filmmaking aspect of his works that makes it all unique; the quirkiness. But more on that later. Set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowska, an alpine state situated somewhere in Europe, The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the final years of the hotel’s glory days and tells the story of Monsieur Gustave H.; the charming & devoted concierge who is highly responsible for the exceptional service & hospitality the hotel is famous for and who also takes great pleasure in courting the elderly blonde women whenever they visit the place. But when Madame D, one of his ladies, dies under mysterious circumstances and he is wrongfully framed for her murder, Gustave teams up with the hotel’s newly recruited lobby boy in order to get out of prison and prove his innocence.
Wes Anderson is one of the very few directors in the industry who has managed to stay true to his cinematic vision and never tried to compromise with his craft. All his films present an immensely distinct visual flair that’s seamlessly blended with quirky wit, eclectic dialogues & idiosyncratic characters to give its viewers a bizarre cinematic experience. And on that scale, The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different for it is very emblematic of Anderson’s style and also has a tremendous charm to it. The production design is absolutely wonderful as the symmetrical sets & miniatures are wonderfully structured & meticulously detailed. Cinematography captures the film in three different aspect ratios to signify the timelines of the stories, and adds more lushness to its visual presentation. And lastly, the background score by Alexandre Desplat is another impressive feature in the composer’s bag that continues his rise in the film music industry.
Coming to the acting department, The Grand Budapest Hotel features a stellar cast in Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkilson, Léa Seydoux & many more. Each actor is assigned an odd character to play on the screen and is introduced to the viewers in Anderson’s usually unusual style. Ralph Fiennes stars as Gustave H. and delivers the most impressive performance of them all as his stylish appearance & rapid-fire dialogues delivered with poker-faced expressions keeps the film moving with a cheerful vibe throughout its runtime. Tony Revolori plays the lobby boy Zero Moustafa with fine balance and does an excellent job at it while F. Murray Abraham gets to play the older version of this character who is narrating the story to The Author; played by Jude Law. And we also have Edward Norton here in the role of Inspector Henckels; the state’s cop.
The performance by the rest of the cast is no slouch either. Tilda Swinton plays Madame D and the story mainly revolves around her death as well as her will. Adrien Brody is in as Dmitri; Madame D’s son, who is enraged with Gustave after the deceased lady bequeathed him with a very valuable painting in her will. Willem Dafoe plays Dmitri’s henchman, J.G. Jopling, and delivers an absolutely cold-blooded performance which was equally hilarious. Jeff Goldblum is in as the lawyer of Dmitri’s family and even his character has an interesting resolution. Saoirse Ronan plays Agatha; Zero’s fiancé & the baker at the Grand Budapest. And finally we have Mathieu Amalric who plays Serge X; Madame D’s butler who had to forcefully testify against Gustave for the murder but later plays an important part in helping the concierge prove his innocence. The remaining cast also chipped in with valuable contributions in their little cameos and overall, there isn’t much to complain in the acting department.
I haven’t seen much of Wes Anderson’s films except Moonrise Kingdom, which was my first venture into this director’s peculiar works, and while it was no doubt oddly impressive but purely from the story perspective, I found it a little overrated. The ornate visual environments that so beautifully encapsulate his movies also end up overshadowing whatever little substance is present in those stories and this film is no exception. Still, there is no denying that Anderson’s latest is one of his finest films even if it may not qualify as a genre masterpiece. On an overall scale, The Grand Budapest Hotel bears all the signatures of a Wes Anderson’s feature and maybe even more. It’s arguably his most accessible work to date that’s exquisitely designed, gorgeously photographed, elegantly composed & is bolstered by some lively performances from its ensemble cast. It’s like a delicious dessert course that is delicately served to its viewers and is one of its year’s sweetest, quirkiest, funniest & most enjoyable films. If you still haven’t seen it then just leave your doubts behind and check into The Grand Budapest Hotel as soon as possible to savour its high-quality hospitality. You certainly won’t regret it.