When Wes Anderson is good, he’s very good and when he’s occasionally off-key, the Texan writer-director still puts other filmmakers in the shade.
* * * * *
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tour-de-force of invention and creativity that leaves no narrative stone unturned in its quest for laughs and heartfelt emotion.
Anderson is in sparkling form, tracing the history of the titular establishment from 1932 to the present day through the eyes of two lovers, who become embroiled in a madcap crime caper involving a stolen painting.
It’s a brilliantly bonkers ensemble comedy from a filmmaker who marries quirky production design with eccentric characters and wry humour, yet still manages to find a nub of humanity in every outlandish situation.
Anderson marshals an incredible cast including regular collaborators Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, plus he teases out an uproarious and energetic performance from Ralph Fiennes as the suave protagonist at the centre of the mystery. The British actor’s comic timing is impeccable. Nightmares conjured by his portrayals of Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List or Voldemort in the Harry Potter saga are banished forever.
A neat framing device introduces Zero Moustafa (Tony Tevolori), who secures a coveted position as lobby boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel.
Zero works under legendary concierge Gustave H (Fiennes). Clients, especially older women, are putty in Gustave’s hands and he lavishes them with affection, including ageing matriarch Madame D (Tilda Swinton).
When she perishes in suspicious circumstances and leaves a priceless Renaissance painting to Gustave in her will, grief-stricken relatives including Madame’s greedy son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) plot the concierge’s downfall.
The Grand Budapest Hotel offers audiences a luxurious five-star stay inside Anderson’s vision. Every frame is beautifully crafted, set to a jaunty score by composer Alexandre Desplat.
If Fiennes is a revelation in a rare comedic role, supporting performances are equally memorable including Swinton’s cranky grand dame and Jeff Goldblum’s ill-fated lawyer.