Put on your most splendid vintage outfit, and assemble your finest existential thoughts, for Wes Anderson is back with The Grand Budapest Hotel, his eighth cinematic offering as director since the dawning of Bottle Rocket in 1996.
With a style as distinct as an emo-tised teenager, a Wes Anderson release nowadays usually comes packaged with a cynical stigma from movie-lovers and critics alike, the internet raising its collective eyebrow in the same treatment received by other tone-conscious artists, such as Tim Burton.
But unlike Tim Burton, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly proves one thing. Whereas the former’s Dark Shadows seemed to suffer with ‘style over substance’, Wes’ latest movie shows that although the same tropes apply, the substance is still very much brimming underneath the warm sepia. Even Fantastic Mr Fox, based on a Roald Dahl character, carried the same existential angst that Wes has come to charm us with.
Starring a cornucopia of Hollywood’s crop as always, the Wes Anderson elite join forces for a movie that is not only funny, but peppered with shock, slapdash, and of course played out with tremendous sang-froid. Presented as a classic story within a story, the movie opens to find an inquisitive writer (played by Jude Law) being told the story of the splendorous establishment that was The Grand Budapest Hotel upon a chance visit himself.
There, he meets Zero, the hotel’s elusive owner – but as the pair sit down to have a traditional Wes Anderson conversation on his past, we dissolve into a flurry of flashbacks of how Zero came to own the Grand Budapest, where we meet the previous owner, M. Gustave H conducted by a vibrant Ralph Fiennes on full-on ‘fabulous, darling’ camp form. From there, the story within takes on a life of its own, as Zero and M. Gustave embark on a fairy tale of debauchery – when Gustave’s tendency for social flamboyance end up with him arrested for the murder of his recent elderly lover (played briefly but strikingly by Tilda Swinton).
Indeed, the film will once again result in a Nile-long IMDB page, with everyone from the ‘usual suspects’ Edward Norton and Jeff Goldblum (whose appearance is radically improved by having a cat) – to new installations in the shape of Tony Revolori, who stars as the younger version of Zero (in a case of colour-blind casting, considering F. Murray Abraham plays his older self) – among the consistently witty script lining caper after caper – the movie is a kaleidoscope of movement.
The end result proves that the over-egging of ‘style’ is not a problem for Wes Anderson as a film-maker. Sure, the parodies will live on, but for the director, The Grand Budapest Hotel shows a mature, funny, and high cultured look at the world that is approachable, and not dogged down by that weighty canvas which is: his style.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Saturday at 01.55am on Channel 4.