There are very few directors with whom you can tell your watching one of their films within the first seconds of watching it. Wes Anderson is one of those directors. There's such a unique style that only exists in Wes Anderson films that makes them so hard to imitate and these films could easily become style over substance. However, the films of his I've seen so far (Fantastic Mr Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and this) have a lot of heart and intelligence that make these films very substantial to watch and out of those films, I think this might be my favourite.
The plot of the film concerns M. Gustave, the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, an Eastern European hotel during the inter-war period, who is given a priceless painting in the will of one of the hotels guests. He is then accused of murdering the woman and then a wild series of events takes place. What is present at the heart of the film is a yearning for the time when there was a degree of civilization in the world, which is represented by Gustave, and made clear through the story being narrated by the older version of Zero, the lobby boy, who became the owner of the hotel in the future, telling his story to a writer. This also brings in the key idea of shared knowledge and the tradition of passing down stories as the story of the film is told by Zero, to the writer, who turns it into a book which is read by a young girl at a memorial to the writer. Throughout the film, you get the sense that something great about the past has been lost and stories like this are the only reminder to this time, along with buildings being monuments to the events and people of the past, made especially clear at the end of the film. Plus, there is a main caper involved in the film and it is really well handled. The escalation of all the events feels very natural, along with the increasing involvement of all the different characters and it all just fits together perfectly. There's also this great sense of charm and humour throughout the film that makes it such fun to watch.
A big reason for the charm and humour is the cast of the film. I would say that no other film this year has a cast as excellent as this film, I mean so many great talents are involved. Most of these people are only on screen for a few minutes including Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Harvey Kietel, Matieu Almaric, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban and Anderson mainstays Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe do great work as the main villains of the film, with Brody showing a great deal of annoyance over everything that happens in the film and Dafoe being really threatening based on his presence alone. Jeff Goldbloom gets some good lines as Deputy Kovacs and does some great work in his later scenes in the film, which I won't spoil here. Edward Norton is great as the police chief who hunts after Gustave, showing that he really doesn't believe that Gustave is guilty of his crime and shows a lot of regret over having to hunt down a good man. Saoirse Ronan does good work as Agatha, bringing in a lot of the charm of the film whilst F Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori do great work as the older and younger versions of Zero. Abraham brings in a great deal of sadness and regret over what has happened to both him and the hotel over the last few years whilst Revolori brings in a lot of quick wit whilst also showing pain over the events that led to him being at the hotel and a great sense of comradery with Gustave. The standout of the film though is Ralph Fiennes as Gustave. People don't normally associate Fiennes with comedic roles but he has shown in the past, with films like In Bruges and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, that he has brilliant comic timing and this is put on full display here. There's this great sense of charm and wit about Fiennes that lets you understand why so many people came to the hotel just for Gustave and his delivery of the more outlandish lines of the film with such a deadpan style fits perfectly into a Wes Anderson film.
The technical side of the film is as great as to be expected with a Wes Anderson film. The production design of the film is gorgeous with the whole film having the design of a cake, especially the hotel itself which literally does look like a giant cake. The use of matte paintings and stop-motion is incredible to watch and you know that every single detail in the background of the film was thought about for hours in order to make everything all fit together. I also have to give praise to the make-up in the film, especially the stuff for Madame D which renders Tilda Swinton completely unrecognisable in the film for the brief screentime she does have. The music is also excellent, really fitting in with the madcap but also melacholic tone of the film. Something that I was surprised at with the film was that there was quite a bit of gore in the film, although it isn't overdone and the way that it is handled fits into the tone of the film perfectly.
Overall, this is an excellent film, one that mixes the beauty of it's design, the mapcap comedy, the incredible cast and the deeper underlying themes perfectly in a way that only Wes Anderson can do. There is no other person in the film industry that has a vision as unique as Anderson and films like this help show why Anderson is such a talented director and writer.
My Rating: 5/5