"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is the latest film from acclaimed indie director Wes Anderson. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
I've spent more than 15 years not responding to the films of Wes Anderson. I recognize what a gifted and original filmmaker he is, and there are moments in his movies when I'm bedazzled at the majestically framed, madly detailed compositions, at the storybook universes he sets up. Yet at a certain point, I always feel like I'm staring at all that imagination through Plexiglas.
But now, I've had my Wes Anderson breakthrough, or maybe, it's that he's had his. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a marvelous contraption, a wheels-within-wheels thriller that's pure movie play.
I can't say I felt a deep connection to the characters in this one, either. Yet that hardly matters, because the movie is just a caper. It has no real pretense beyond hurtling forward through a wonderland of funny and suspenseful fairy-tale predicaments.
The film is set in Zubrowka, a fictional '30s European nation that Anderson treats as a glorious, semi-ruined Old World kingdom. The central character, Monsieur Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes, is the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, and he's a con man and gigolo who speaks in outrageously flowing yet blunt-witted sentences, explaining his schemes to us, one of which involves bedding the wealthy old women at the hotel. Fiennes digs into the chance to play a florid scoundrel.
Set just as World War II, or a tall-tale version of it, is starting, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is basically about the battle over a will. One of Gustave's conquests has left him a priceless painting, but her relatives, who include Adrien Brody as their scowling ringleader and Willem Dafoe as a thug who looks like Frankenberry with a crew cut, plan to kill him instead.
The movie turns into fantastic war-time chase thriller, with stops for a great escape from a criminal internment camp and a toboggan race that out-jaw-drops anything you saw in the recent Olympics. It's all seen through the eyes of Zero, a poker-faced Lobby Boy who is telling the story we're seeing.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is still every inch a Wes Anderson film, but a new breed of one, since Anderson, for maybe the first time, is out to enchant us without saying anything. For me, that lets him say more.