Meticulously crafted locations, complete with colour-coordinated outfits? Check. Corduroy yellows, dusty pinks and tonal blues? Check. Characters with eccentric histories exposed with an unusually sensitive, witty humour? Check. The presence of Bill Murray and/or Jason Schwartzman and/or Owen Wilson? Triple check. Directed and written by Wes Anderson? Obvs.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is quintessentially Anderson—and spectacularly wonderful for it. Even with Anderson’s atypical casting of Ralph Fiennes, and a plot that entails theft, Nazi occupation and parricide, and--to add to that--an otherwise extraordinarily complex narrative structure (which frequently jumps between events that span over 70 years), the film manages to retain the simplicity and casual, hipster-like coolness that could only be expected from the auteur himself.
First things first: let’s discuss Fiennes. As the film’s main and suitably flamboyantly-named character, Gustave H., Fiennes’ performance rests perfectly on the balance of bombastic theatricality and pointed humanism. His comic timings and camp physicality inject an exuberance and dynamism into the character, which is rare of an Anderson protagonist, yet Gustave H. still stands as an almost microcosmic symbol of all of Anderson’s work. He is at once wistful and profound, endearing and odious, open and reserved. The character is further complimented by the unabashed loyalty of a pre-pubescent lobby boy, Zero, who recounts Gustave’s tale with a respect that forces the audience to admire him too.
And of course, there are *those* visuals. Second only to Fantastic Mr Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel is perhaps Anderson’s most distinctly visualised piece, with his craftsmanship laid bare in all its glory in the form of rich textures and frosted colours. Willem Dafoe’s black-clothed murderer oozes with parodied Hitchcockian enigma whilst the Hotel looks as though it should be the centrepiece in the window of a cake shop with fondant icing figurines. Every crash zoom is tinged with an awkward humour and every shot lies perfectly still, waiting upon the punch-line.
And that’s the best thing about this film: it’s funny. Anderson crafts a whole world that whimsically goes about its day-to-day business, stuffing it with characters that take eccentricity to a new level. He effortlessly parodies Griffith’s “girl and gun” rule by deglamourizing the characters and action through giving them both a child-like directness, whilst also mocking modern over-sexualisation and dropping criticisms of the class elite.
To put it short, The Grand Budapest Hotel is bloody marvellous. It’s the kind of film that leaves you wondering which character was your favourite, or which one-liner you’ll use next in ordinary conversation. For all the fear that Wes Anderson couldn’t make another film to top his divine filmography, this one may just be amongst his finest. And for that, dahling, Anderson fans everywhere thank you.