Over the last decade, Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise Kingdom”) has helped shape and define the true art of independent filmmaking. His ability to both frame a narrative, as well as visually explore that narrative, is both potent and underwhelmingly appreciated when it’s seen in the microcosm of film’s ever-expanding universe.
Anderson’s most recent project, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is nothing short of flawless execution from a writer and director that has created his own world of quirkiness and comfort inside a world that has seemed so heartless and unforgiving to too many. Anderson, a seemingly skinny lightweight among Hollywood heavy-hitters, projects a fluidity with his work that flows like a feather in the wind, delicately dancing around his subject in a taunting matter before he plunges head first into the soft underbelly.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a story about a devoted concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), at the Titular Hotel, who works with the help of his trusty lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), to clear his name after he’s framed for murder. The story unfolds as told by an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) recounting how he came to own the hotel to a man known only as “The Author” (Jude Law), setting up a brilliant frame in which to squeeze this dense, yet, light-hearted narrative. The film’s opening scene, a girl visiting “The Author’s” memorial in a graveyard and opening a book depicting the hotel on the cover, propels us into the literal story inside the story. At this point, the film becomes a testament to the art of storytelling just as much as the content itself, which doesn’t disappoint in the satisfaction of closing the final pages back in at the end.
As layers of the film are peeled back, a cast of familiar actors, to both Wes Anderson films and the general public, creep out of the woodwork in order to extract their own sense of flavor from an already decadent dish. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody, among many, many others, combine to create a colorful vessel of humor and drama in high society. With Fiennes steering the boat with a charisma very unlike his days as Lord Voldemort, his support merely has to lift a finger in order to keep it from capsizing, which it never even threatens. Loaded with side-splitting dialogue and a couple of cringe-worthy surprises, the roundabout story becomes reminiscent of a relay race, picking up speed as the baton is passed from dock to anchor.
Anderson’s signature symmetry and shot selection shine through in this picturesque tale of love and deceit. While the camera doesn’t necessarily guide your vision to the points of importance, it instead frames environments that seem both fantastically playful and meticulously balanced, assembling a dollhouse of wit and waywardness. Hilarious and memorable, I bid everyone who has the chance to do so to check in to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”