It’s easy enough to recognize the distinctive aesthetic of a Wes Anderson film but where it finds itself at its most delightfully tangible, without a doubt, is in The Grand Budapest Hotel. But even by Wes Anderson’s own standards, the elaborate structure of such a work is nearly impossible to match, for this feels like the sort of film that only Wes Anderson could have made. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most Wes Anderson film that Wes Anderson has ever made, because it’s where each and every one of his most distinctive skills find themselves at their most free. If that alone weren’t enough to amount to what could easily become one of Wes Anderson’s best films, I don’t know what else can – because this may very well be the most Wes Anderson film ever to Wes Anderson.
This is a film that is framed in a manner akin to having literature read to yourself, with the way in which the film starts. A novel about the titular Grand Budapest Hotel is being read by a younger girl, and we meet a writer as he is telling us another story; one that is set around the Grand Budapest Hotel. Having been inspired by the work of Stefan Zweig, Wes Anderson’s own literary influences make themselves much clearer in The Grand Budapest Hotel, by employing a framing device akin to that from The Royal Tenenbaums in order to set the tone of the work for his audiences with such ease. It feels relaxing, in the most Wes Anderson way possible, but what comes forth is what also may very well be Wes Anderson at his most free form, having come in touch with everything that makes his own style so distinctive from any other working filmmaker.
Everything starts with the introduction of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel – in his distinctly purple uniform. It only fits that he comes into the screen in this manner because it perfectly sets afoot the tone of the film. For a film that celebrates the wealthiest of people as they become patrons of the Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson also has no trouble with making fun of the class system – whether it be from their posh attitudes or their typically absurd means of living their own lives. This may be Wes Anderson at his funniest yet, because of how his sense of humour never hesitates from heading towards being outright absurdist, and never finds itself behind any sort of borders. But that’s only the very least of what makes The Grand Budapest Hotel so appealing to one’s own senses. It’s appealing because Anderson never is afraid to mock their mannerisms whenever he can, but in this very environment you know it still feels natural. It isn’t the quirkiness in the same way that you know you would recognize him for, but a dry satire about the class system that never fails to bite.
Anderson’s distinctively symmetrical visual style is at the height of its powers here, for every frame truly does look like a painting thanks to the inventive cinematography and colourful designs, whether it be the sets or the costumes. This is arguably Wes Anderson’s most colourful film and everything finds itself shining so brightly because it fits all too perfectly for Wes Anderson’s own brand of storytelling. Everything here is framed like a painting, quite fittingly in the most Wes Anderson manner possible, but what’s also sure to catch the eye is how Anderson uses the aspect ratio. It works perfectly in order to frame the film’s place in time, because he always switches it depending on the time period – and it helps in order to bring his own audiences on board with the quirkiness of the mannerisms from the changes in eras. Cinematically, this switch also gives the film the look of a classic Hollywood picture from around said era, thus creating a perfect framing device in order to tell this story without ever feeling like a jarring shift.
This also showcases some of Wes Anderson’s best character work yet, because for as much as Wes Anderson can give the idea that the sorts of characters we are watching in The Grand Budapest Hotel are all parts of caricatures starting off with Ralph Fiennes’s Gustave H. and Tony Revolori’s Zero Moustafa. In a career-best performance, Fiennes plays the role very straight, but not too straight to the point it feels downright uncomfortable – there’s still a sense of humanity to be found between the relationship he forms between his own lobby boy, Moustafa. The two have such a perfect chemistry with one another it’s near impossible to dislike, but the very use that Wes Anderson has for the ensemble in which he has formed in The Grand Budapest Hotel is nothing short of wonderful, whether it be Saoirse Ronan as Zero’s lover, or Adrien Brody as a cunning villain. Every cast member feels perfect into place, it becomes near impossible to imagine anyone else playing their own parts in the same way because they all fit into their characters with such ease.
Given how grand the scope of The Grand Budapest Hotel feels in comparison to his other films, this is the one film where it clearly feels as if it truly is where he finds himself with the most freedom that any other director could ever carry. I can’t ever think of anything not to like here, but being a huge fan of Wes Anderson in general I can’t help but find myself in awe upon every revisit as I find myself more enchanted by the world that he created. When you watch a Wes Anderson film, you always want to believe that it really is set within our own world but his own cinematic style shows you otherwise: whether it be from the very look or the way everyone talks. But in that very sense, everything about The Grand Budapest Hotel is absolutely perfect, from every exchange of dialogue to every cut – this is perhaps Wes Anderson at both his funniest and his most melancholic, and even if it isn’t my favourite I can’t care less because this film is just all around too wonderful.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox Searchlight.
Directed by Wes Anderson
Screenplay by Wes Anderson
Produced by Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson
Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori
Release Year: 2014
Running Time: 100 minutes