You don’t have to read the credits or see the previews to recognize “The Grand Budapest Hotel” as a Wes Anderson picture. Anyone familiar with Anderson’s work can immediately spot his whimsical filmmaking style and sense of humor that’s completely bizarre, yet also deadpan. While Anderson has fallen into a comfortable, if not slightly predictable, groove, he still remains one of the most distinctive voices and visionaries of the past two decades. With his previous film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” Anderson perfected his craft as a writer and director. Although “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a step down from that near perfect film, it’s still another quirky, charming entertainment with that special Anderson touch.
It’s the late 1960s where a nameless author (Jude Law) encounters a hotel owner named Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Moustafa flashes back to 1932 when he was a scrawny bellhop with a painted on mustache and his job title etched on his hat. In these sequences, Moustafa is played by newcomer Tony Revolori. He’s taught under the dedicated wing of Ralph Fiennes’ M. Gustave, the hotel concierge who fondles more old ladies than Max Bialystock in “The Producers.”
One of Gustave’s many lovers is the wealthy Madame D, played by an aged Tilda Swinton, who kicks the bucket and leaves her boy toy a priceless work of art, named “Boy With Apple.” This naturally doesn’t sit well with her greedy son, played by Adrien Brody with devious facial hair and an Eraserhead hairdo. What ensues is a complicated farce evolving murder, war, chases, mystery, a prison escape, a Bill Murray cameo, all that good stuff.
This is another great-looking movie from Anderson with old fashion sets, inspired effects, and lively cinematography, much of which is presented in a 1.33 aspect ratio. “Grand” is certainly the best word to describe the appearance of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” What’s more, the supporting cast is pitch perfect with Saoirse Ronan as a young pastry chef, Willem Dafoe as a ruthless manservant, Edward Norton as a matter-of-fact inspector, Jeff Goldblum as a Jeff Goldblumy lawyer, and too many other names to list off. The film mostly belongs to Fiennes and Revolori, who share a delightful mentor/mentee relationship that blossoms into a flat-out bromance.
If “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has a problem, aside from not being quite as funny or fresh as some of Anderson’s other films, it lies in the final act. The film builds up to what should be a big, exciting showdown full of revelations. Instead, it hurries to the conclusion with an easy solution to the main conflict. It really puts a damper on an otherwise solid film.
That being said, the rest of the film is indeed very fun and could only be brought to the screen by Anderson. People who love Anderson’s work will eat “The Grand Budapest Hotel” up while people who just don’t understand his work will continue to be mystified. Personally, I can’t wait to see where the director’s imagination will take audiences next. Suggestion: a feature-length Dr. Seuss movie, be it live-action or stop-motion animated.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.