By Ohad Amram Columnist
Over the span of nearly two decades, Wes Anderson has established himself as a household name in contemporary cinema. Anderson has garnered quite the fan base for his films, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” to name a few. His distinct style, often recognized by centered framing, whimsical dialogue, wide angled, symmetrical shots and incredibly unique storylines, carry his latest feature, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and charmsevery step of the way.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” tells the story of M. Gustav, the concierge of the hotel, while simultaneously telling the story of Zero, the lobby boy who would go on to become his most trusted advisee. Gustav (Ralph Fiennes) is somehow admirable yet dubious in his ways. He manages to indulge in promiscuous rendezvous and devise some of the most elaborate schemes, yet runs The Grand Budapest Hotel with an iron fist. Upon lobby boy Zero’s employment at this establishment, one of Gustav’s lovers, Madame D (Tilda Swinton), is murdered. In her will, she has left Gustav her sole prized possession. However, claiming said possession, a priceless painting, becomes difficult when Madame D’s spiteful children, Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and Jopling (Willem Dafoe) claim the painting as their own.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” wouldn’t be an Anderson film if it didn’t consist of the two most distinguishable Anderson quirks; his recurring actors and cameos by, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray and Ed Norton, among several others, as well as some of the most beautiful set design and artistic direction to ever be filmed. Other notable actors include the films two narrators; Tom Wilkinson, and the narrator in the film, the now adult Zero, played by F. Murray Abraham, who recounts his memorable time spent and lessons learned with mentor, Gustav. Tony Revolori plays the young Zero whose chemistry with Ralph Fiennes is both playful as it is endearing.
As the film opens, it begins with an engaging voiceover that guides the actions of the current Grand Budapest hotel owner, Zero. Here, the narrative changes as Zero, in his old age, recounts his first moments at the hotel, telling a young writer (Jude Law) how he came to be its proud owner. From there, these extravagant flashbacks narrate the journey that both Gustav and Zero encountered while attempting to reclaim the prized painting.
Ultimately, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” tells the story of true friendship and what it means to experience the loss of that friendship. The film is as deeply affecting as it is a marvel and, to be put plain and simple, Anderson is perhaps the only working director that could be held responsible for such a triumph. Managing to maintain the subtleties of the characters he conceives while painting their conundrums so vividly, Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is chock-full of nuance and vigor. It is without question the best film of 2014, thus far, and you can bet it sets the bar high.