Wes Anderson’s follow-up to Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel is even better and more ambitious with continuing themes of friendship, loyalty, honour and love accompanied by a lovely tone of unaffected humanism.
There was a time when Wes Anderson’s films, particularly The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited (coming after his Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums), were accused of being way too Wes Anderson-ish: i.e. archly artificial, calculated and inhuman. But 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom changed all of that, and this, his follow-up, is even better and more ambitious with continuing themes of friendship, loyalty, honour and love accompanied by a lovely tone of unaffected humanism. Inspired by the work of Viennese/Austrian Stefan Zweig, this trickily takes place in four separate timeframes: a girl ponders the past in contemporary times; an unnamed author (Tom Wilkinson) speaks to-camera in the mid-80s the ‘Young Writer’ (Jude Law) talks to Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) in the 60s and they flashback to 1932, where the young Moustafa (wonderful near-unknown Tony Revolori) is taken under the wing of concierge and mentor M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes in just about his best performance anywhere), a tirelessly gentlemanly legend in the hotel of the title in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka. Within this Old World establishment, as the clock ticks down to war, Gustave (“I go to bed with all my friends”) has a strong attachment to adoring octogenarian regular Madame D (Tilda Swinton in heavy make-up). When she winds up murdered it’s the ‘fruity’ Gustave who’s suspected of foul play, especially as he’s been bequeathed a priceless painting in her will. Soon her nasty son Dmitri (Anderson pal Adrien Brody) is also on Gustave’s case, with help from his assassin sidekick Jopling (Willem Dafoe), and a series of chases (often using charming FX and even a little stylised animation) result, with Gustave and Moustafa on the run from the law and Jopling, and Anderson utilising a high-kick-inducing soundtrack of zithers, balalaikas and even yodelling. Featuring perhaps Anderson’s greatest and funniest cast, many of whom have appeared in his previous efforts (like Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray in his seventh Wes pic), as well as a few first-timers (Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric), this is also notable for not only revealing this director’s purest, sweetest romanticism but also his deftest and most daring shifts in tone. Andthe nattily-dressed (even when he’s in a prison uniform) Fiennes is simply gorgeous here, and is allowed such scope to charm and shine that some viewers will seriously want to get a room. The Grand Budapest Hotel screens from Thursday, April 10. Rated M.