The Grand Budapest Hotel

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There is no one like Wes Anderson in the filmmaking community at the moment, and maybe there never really was.

Sure, there are filmmakers with their own styles of storytelling and personal tone that they imbue their films with, but no other filmmaker seems to be doing something as encompassing as the body of work Anderson is continually updating. I use the term ‘updating’ rather than ‘adding to’, because with every film he makes he seems to be crafting a world; a singular, strange, wondrous, colourful place removed but irrevocably linked to our world through sweet and telling truths that lie beneath the sophistry of his character’s personalities.

And this world he is creating becomes clearer and clearer with each passing film. He is like an obsessed wood carver hewing his latest film from the finished remains of the last, honing and clarifying his vision with every subsequent attempt.

A story-within-a-story type deal, told by an old man to a writer, who in turn tells it to us, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the meeting place of our two focal characters: Zero Moustafa, the lobby-boy at the prestigious hotel and original narrator of the story, and Monsieur Gustave, the concierge who takes it upon himself to become Zero’s mentor in all things within and without the hotel.

Though Zero is the narrator, Monsieur Gustave is the main focus of the story, and he is a terrific character. An affable, charming fellow who woos rich elderly women, Gustave gets in some hot water when one of his conquests, Madame D., dies mysteriously and leaves Gustave a priceless painting.

But when it is found out that Madame was poisoned, Gustave becomes the prime suspect and is thrown in jail. With Zero as his man on the outside, Gustave is determined to break out of prison, find the man that killed Madame and clear his name, as well as say some sweet, funny things along the way.

Ralph Fiennes leads an immense ensemble cast as Monsieur Gustave. It’s hard to describe his performance in any other way than truly delightful. His gentle earnestness is a joy to watch, and provides some of the best moments in the film.

New-face Tony Revolori plays Zero at the opposite of the spectrum; wide-eyed and stoic, and the two form a great duo. It is a little disappointing that every other cast member seems so criminally underused in this. Every time another familiar face appeared on-screen, it seemed like they were gone but a moment later.

Though surprisingly violent at certain points, and not as full an emotional experience as films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson getting closer to crafting the perfect film, with a world so defined, crystal clear and delightfully strange. This is a terrific step in that direction.

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens nationally this Thursday.

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