Wes Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom, was a rather laborious affair that, while maintained the quirks of his previous work and was helped by some fantastic supporting performances, offered little in the way of narrative engagement. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a diehard fan of Anderson’s work, he has created some of the most visually charming films of the last two decades. The Fantastic Mr Fox, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are filled to the brim with personality, vitality and humour, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different.
Blending comedy, drama, action and a hint of romance, the film isn’t one to simply loiter in it’s splendid visuals and Alexandre Desplat’s magnificent soundtrack. Split between three different time frames, The Grand Budapest Hotel travels from monasteries atop snowy mountains to the confines of a prison, exploring an array of colourful personalities from murderers to bakers. What always amazes me about Wes Anderson’s direction and writing, is that he manages to retain the energy and momentum throughout the entire film, yet still convey the depth and emotion of each scene and character. Ralph Fiennes is superb as the shrewd and rapid-firing concierge Monsieur Gustave H, a role that truly showcases the breadth of his talent. Meanwhile relative newcomer Tony Revolori offers a endearing performance as Zero, the hotel’s lobby boy and Gustave’s loyal sidekick. Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, William Dafoe and F. Murray Abraham are a few names from an overwhelming cast of incredible talent who all manage to leave a lasting impression even when they occasionally amount to little more than cameo.
While visually and thematically The Grand Budapest Hotel doesn’t stray too far from Anderson’s usual artistic style, it’s still gorgeous to watch. Miniature sets and clever shifts in aspect ratios harken back to the “Golden Age” of cinema and give further personality to the film. An abundance of colour, careful set design and intelligent camerawork gives a distinct look that outshines the grit and murk that modern cinema has become all too obsessed with.
With a smart and funny story, great performances all round, a beautiful visual tone and fantastic soundtrack, The Grand Budapest Hotel is easily one of Wes Anderson’s best.