Mendl’s pastries play quite a large part in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. These exquisite creations are delicious, beautifully made and hastily devoured by the movies’ characters because of the wonderful taste. Much like these delicacies the film itself is a gorgeously presented work, one you’re completely invested in while watching because of how fine and endearing it is. But, much like Mendl’s delights, once you’re done with it, you’re left wanting more because of a lack of substance. It’s easy to get enrolled in the movie’s narrative, which moves along briskly and tells a simple tale presented in a matryoshka doll-like manner. Essentially The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of a lobby boy who, through his acquaintance with Ralph Fiennes’ M. Gustave and the predicament he finds himself in, eventually becomes the owner of the titular establishment. This is not a spoiler by any means: this is the kind of tale that’s not about the destination but about the way there.
With it, Anderson’s crafted his best-looking picture, but one that feels eerily superficial compared to his other movies. Where most of his films have been about troubled family dynamics and people coming into adulthood (usually not at an age that’s considered normal for that sorta thing), with The Grand Budapest Hotel the director’s delivered a murder mystery and a crime caper, which is moved forward by various MacGuffins and absurd circumstances. Stylistically it’s extremely similar to all his other works, but its plot is the odd one out when looking at Anderson’s oeuvre. But that’s actually not a bad thing: the story told is entirely enchanting despite its straightforwardness and harkens back to the types of stories you used to encounter in the early days of cinema, something that gels extremely well with the fact Anderson toys around with the film’s aspect ratios to convey a sense of jumping back in time, not only for his characters but also for his viewers. Additionally he uses many of his trademarks to full effect to create the atmosphere of early film and theater: he’s always used hand-painted and hand-written elements in his movies, but most of The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s world is presented that way. You know those painted backgrounds films used to use? Well, those are in here a lot, by way of Anderson’s incredibly recognizable style.
While it’s true Wes Anderson’s created an entirely kitsch and compelling visual world for viewers, it’s definitely the performances that keep them there. Tony Revolori does a great job as the lobby boy Zero who acts as a vessel for the audience, with his deadpan deliveries and facial expressions, but it’s Ralph Fiennes who steals the show. M. Gustave is arguably Anderson’s best character to date and Fiennes revels in bringing this well-mannered, flawed and quite silly hotel concierge to life. Whoever has seen In Bruge knows Fiennes, an character actor widely known for his success with dramatic roles, also possesses great comedic timing and this movie really offers him the chance to shine, an opportunity he grabbed with both hands. Fiennes gets a slew of great lines to deliver and clearly has a ball doing it. It’s him you’re on board with during the movie, a charismatic character portrayed by a charismatic actor. The many great supporting players, many frequent Wes Anderson collaborators, also make the movie a joy to watch, from Adrien Brody’s pantomime villain to Willem Dafoe’s outlandish henchman.
The Grand Budapest Hotel offers a wonderful ride, filling you with nostalgia for a place where you’ve never been. 8/10