“The Grand Budapest Hotel” takes place over three decades, the 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s. In each of those time periods, the aspect ratio changes. The 30s are shown in a tiny box, the 60s in widescreen, and the 70s (present day in the movie’s case) are full screen.
That is just a small part of the painstaking effort put into every second of director Wes Anderson’s latest movie. Each and every frame of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” looks like a painting that took hours to create. Not only is this his most gorgeous movie to date, it is the masterpiece that many have expected would eventually come from Anderson.
Anderson’s scripts are never very plot heavy as he tends to focus on characters and their relationships with others. This movie manages to combine the surreal Anderson world filled with oddballs and actually put them in an extremely convoluted and surprisingly thrilling story that revolves around the finest concierge of all time, M. Gustave, played in career defining manner by Ralph Fiennes.
The story begins with an older author (Tom Wilkinson) detailing his tale about his chance meeting with the mysterious owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel. The owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), details this story to a younger version of the author (Jude Law) over a dinner in the now dilapidated hotel, complete with a younger, not so great concierge (Jason Schwartzman).
Mr. Moustafa’s story takes place during the 1930s and follows the adventures of M. Gustave and the newest lobby boy at The Grand Budapest, Zero (Tony Revolori). M. Gustave is a smooth talking gentleman that takes several liberties with his elderly female guests. One of which, Madame D., (an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) dies and bestows M. Gustave a priceless work of art titled “Boy With Apple”.
This sets off a battle between M. Gustave and Madame D.’s son, Dmitri, played with villainous hilarity by Adrian Brody. This battle is all overseen by Madame D.’s lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum). Dmitri is unwilling to give the painting up so naturally, M. Gustave and Zero steal it. Dmitri then sends Jopling (Willem Dafoe), his fantastically creepy henchman to find the painting. The zaniness is piled on when cartoon-like policeman Henckels (Edward Norton) tries to sort out this huge mess.
All of this is happening around what may or may not be the beginning of World War II. It is never specifically mentioned, but it just feels like the invading soldiers are a fictional version of Nazis.
However, the true stroke of genius in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is that every actor, regardless of their place of birth, speaks in their natural accent. It only adds to this surreal alternate reality that Anderson has created. The movie is kind of based in reality, but almost on an alternate Earth where these humans beings do in fact exist.
There is much more to the story, including M. Gustave’s hilarious time in prison and the sweet and almost-too-cute romance between Zero and local cake chef Agatha (Saorise Ronan). However, not one second of this all too short 99 minute movie is wasted and it’s perfectly seamless.
The normal amount of actors pop up in small roles, as is the case with all of Wes Anderson’s movies. Don’t worry, Bill Murray keeps his Anderson Ironman Streak alive. There are even a few surprises that have thankfully not been ruined in trailers.
But, regardless of the familiar faces, the two newcomers to Anderson’s movie world make the most impact. Tony Revolori plays the seemingly naive Zero with wide-eyed positivity. He is required to stand up to M. Gustave when he’s on his most awful behavior and Revolori makes it believable that a tiny youngster could actually pull that off.
Ralph Fiennes will be showered with awards for this movie. If anything, this will go down in history as one of the finest cursing performances of all time. When Fiennes drops an F-bomb, it’s hysterical and he’s made that word actually seem funny again. His charm and impeccable timing are so bitingly funny that it’s entirely possible to miss something brilliant he said because you are still laughing over the last brilliant thing he said.
At this point, you would need a Richter scale to measure Wes Anderson’s imagination. This movie is so spectacular that it’s difficult to describe. It is breathtaking from start to finish and may make you shake your head in disbelief that something could be so beautiful to look at and unique and original.
In short, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” cannot be missed. It is a cinematic treasure.
In stores Tuesday, June 17.