Even the most fervent of Wes Anderson critics seem to be taken with his latest picture, as it appears that anybody who has had the pleasure of checking in at The Grand Budapest Hotel has left marvelling at the wonders on show. The filmmaker’s latest project has toned down on whimsicality, instead focusing more on storytelling, to create one of his finest works – brushing shoulders with the likes of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. And in so doing, it has taken a polarised film community and brought them together in unison.
Set in the fictional setting of the Republic of Zubrowka, we recount the tale of Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who explains how he came to be the owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel, recounting his life story to a writer (Jude Law), which begins is 1932 when, as a young teenager nicknamed Zero (played in flashbacks by Tony Revolori), he took on a job as a lobby boy at the establishment. His boss was the distinguished, meticulous concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), who landed himself in trouble when he discovered he was the beneficiary of a valuable piece of art, left to him in the will of a deceased former guest (Tilda Swinton), enraging her family who were hellbent of keeping hold of their mother’s fortune.
By creating his own world – where every actor speaks in their own accent – Anderson has allowed himself a significant amount creative licence. While Zubrowka compliments his cinematic language, as it is evident he is lovingly influenced by European cinema and the works of Ernst Lubitsch. However though the setting may take the viewer away from reality somewhat, it is never from an emotional perspective. The characters are humanised effectively, and there is something very poignant about the relationship between Gustave and Zero, with Fiennes showing off such vulnerability and earnestness, along with a brilliant comic touch which is prevalent throughout.
There is an intimacy to this tale, and it is one enhanced by Anderson’s decision to make use of toy models in-between takes which contradict the grandiose elements of the narrative and aid in the fantastical approach. There is a tenderness and an ineffable beauty too, that mark a delightful return to form for Anderson with a film that can be appreciated equally by those who love his work, and those who are somewhat unsure.