Another fanstastic Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel is riotously funny.
Owing mostly to Anderson’s directorial and authorial decisions. His dialogue is witty and engrossing, no doubt because it fuses poetry with sudden vulgarity.
Anderson’s narrative framing is just as humorous, not least because voice-overs from three actors and two characters seamlessly blend together, thereby fueling the picture’s nostalgia-minded themes.
The director’s color palette is both pronounced and effective. The Grand Budapest Hotel occurs in three distinct eras, each of which has its own color scheme, the last of them being heightened reds and pinks. The changing colors subconsciously cue the viewer which narrator to expect and which story elements to anticipate.
Anderson’s image frames are often comedic, as well, as when M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori) enter the titular hotel, hiding behind bakery boxes, trying not to attract attention. In the bottom corner of the screen? Henckels (Edward Norton), looking determined.
Consider that example further. It is funny, yes, the way Henckels appears, almost as an afterthought, but it also adds gravitas, reminding us of the threat facing Gustave and Zero. Therein is the true genius in Anderson’s choices; they are funny, but they are not depthless.
Which can be said for the actors’ performances, as well. Ralph Fiennes is one of the finest working screen actors, meaning his commanding performance isn’t surprising. But, even so, this might be his best work. Fiennes sells The Grand Budapest Hotel’s fantasy and comedy, at the same time he amplifies its drama. While this picture belongs first to Wes Anderson, Fiennes almost steals it.
Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan (Agatha), Adrien Brody (Dmitri) and Willem Dafoe (Jopling) shine almost as brightly, especially Ronan who is so good that we barely notice Agatha’s near depthlessness.
Indeed, of the film’s many characters, only Gustave and Zero are well-defined. The Grand Budapest Hotel does not suffer for it, though, owing to Zero’s narration. We see other characters as he sees them.
Wes Anderson’s career is already distinguished, and this might be his best movie.
Though it isn’t perfect. Agatha and Gustave’s final fates are glossed over too quickly, zapping the film of potential emotion. Moreover, physical abnormalities, like Agatha’s birthmark, are often played for one-line humor, a fact that is marginally discomforting.
Finally, fantastical references to Nazi Germany and World War Two are so direct as to distract. Given the obvious one to one relationship, why not set the film in a fictional hotel located somewhere in actual 1930s-era Europe and then include actual Nazis?
The flaws, however, are minor and the strengths immersive. The Grand Budapest Hotel is an exceptional film indeed.