No one does quirky quite like Wes Anderson. The writer/director has made a career (and now has quite a following) by making offbeat comedies and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different. His newest film works like a French farce with characters moving and talking faster than any normal person would. The film sets itself up as quite a complicated one.
A girl holds a novel in front of a statue of a famous author. She sits down to look at her book, and we are taken back in time to that author (Tom Wilkinson) reading the words to us. Then we are taken back further in time when that author (who is never actually given a name) was a young man (Jude Law) staying at the Grand Budapest Hotel. We still haven’t set up the story. The young author meets Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who is also staying at the hotel and ends up having quite a connection to the long-running establishment. We push back again in time as Moustafa tells the young author about the time he was a young lobby boy called Zero (played by Tony Revolori) in the hotel, working for M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). After several frames, we are finally at the point in time in which the story begins.
Gustave’s lover, the older Madame D. (Tilda Swinton, hidden under fantastic old age makeup), dies and, much to the chagrin of her family, she leaves Gustave a painting, “Boy With Apple” (the work is ridiculous as it sounds). After her family tries to deny him of the inheritance, Gustave and Zero steal the painting, with everyone on the hunt for them. The cast of characters in the film is vast, and Anderson employs his usual band of actors to have some fun with the eccentric roles, including Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, and Owen Wilson. Sa0irse Ronan proves to be a worthy addition to the group, and Fiennes has more fun than he’s had in years with his ridiculous character.
The film is gorgeous to look at, and it’s got a wit that most movies would be envious of, but, like a lot of Anderson’s work, there’s a lack of an emotional connection that prevents The Grand Budapest Hotel from going to the next level. The Royal Tenenbaums remains Anderson’s strongest entry as it manages to go beyond its farcical facade and create poignant moments. The Grand Budapest Hotel will put you in awe of its originality, but it will also leaving you feeling empty as you check out.