Wes Anderson for some time now has been one of the biggest indie directors around. With a slight dip in form occurring with 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, both of which are enjoyable but lacking a certain heart, Anderson seems to have rediscovered himself following on from his animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. So in 2014 he returns with The Grand Budapest Hotel, a sprawling crime caper with a cast bigger than one of those terrible ‘New Years Eve’ type movies. Starring Ralph Fiennes as the spectacularly posh/camp owner of the Hotel, M. Gustave, a character who has always had a special relationship with his older lady visitors is gifted a priceless painting by one of his closest visitors when she is murdered. This doesn’t go down particularly well with her sons though and this begins a manhunt for Gustave with an aim to frame him for the murder.
This is perhaps Anderson’s most precise work, known for his meticulous style The Grand Budapest takes this a new level, at least in live action. It’s so perfectly framed with every little detail designed to be just so the film often feels like an animation in the same vein as Fantastic Mr Fox. And here the script really suits the style, the script and the aesthetic merge together to create what could well be Anderson’s best realised comedic universe yet. The casting is flawless too, Fiennes’ performance is inspired as the rather bizarre but inifinitely likeable Gustave and other highlights come from his lobby boy, newcomer, Tony Revolori who is Gustave’s protege and best friend. Willem Dafoe as Jopling, is a psychopathic son of the murdered Madame D. and with very few lines he brings probably the most laughs of anyone. The cast is so large, though, and all of them perform so well that I can’t mention tham all as much as I would like. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit slow to kick things off and it does spend slightly too long setting the scene but when events do start picking up it is well worth the wait and as it builds to a climax the visuals become more and more impressive in equal measure to the humour. This is a prime example of an auteur confident, accomplished and at the top of his game.
This may not be a film for people who aren’t familiar with Anderson but for those who are this is certainly one of his best. And a prime example of his unique style. Although I wouldn’t go as far as this is his best film this continues a blinding run of form for the writer-director and is up there with his best works.
Wes Anderson’s latest sees him work with some different personnel than you might be used to, drafting in the likes of Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Harvey Keitel. No sign of Owen Wilson though, which is unusual but we are treated a nice dose of Bill Murray. It speaks to Anderson’s talent the way he’s managed to attract such stars to a quirky, alternative, teenage rom-com an they all manage to fit into his strange world seamlessly.
With the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox this is probably Anderson’s more child based films taking a number of his techniques from Rushmore. As with all of Anderson’s previous movies all the characters speak the same, in this very matter-of-fact, slightly monotone manner, in his films that way of talking transcends age and gender. Moonrise Kingdom focusses on a young boy and girl who both have fairly messed up families. Sam (Jared Gilman), it is discovered is an orphan, and a scout, he runs away from his scout camp to meet Suzy (Kara Hayward), they promptly fall in love an we learn of their back stories. The style of dialogue is even more ridiculous when it’s spoken by these two kids but it brings the film a nice charm and is frequently hilarious.
What follows is essentially a chase movie where the scout camp and Suzy’s parents try to round up the pair with a number of complications on the way. It builds up to a bit of a mad finale during a freak weather storm with a climactic scene that is put together in a classic Anderson fashion panning between all the different groups of characters as the events unfold. The ending is very heart-warming and the emotional side of the film is one of the best developed in Anderson’s back catalogue.
Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are superb, Willis being a huge amount more vulnerable than I’ve ever seen him and pulling it off particularly well. And Norton being fantastically peculiar. Harvey Keitel is a great addition to the team of bumbling scout leaders who don’t really have a clue what they’re doing. Overall all the elements of the film really work and makes for a great addition to Anderson’s filmography and is fun for all the family too.