Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel hardly needs another glowing review, as it is already a critical darling. It boasts all the signature Anderson touches–but exceeds, in crucial ways, its most recent counterparts.
Unlike Moonrise Kingdom, the film that preceeded it, The Grand Budapest Hotel avoids being sickly sweet and twee. Or rather, it balances out that signature saccharine quality with a dash of something darker (despite the fact that its setting is a pink hotel). This is structured much as Ralph Fienne’s deftly played character M. Gustave punctuates his flourish-filled dialogue with an occasional darkly muttered oath, breaking through an outer layer to reveal the man beneath his careful cultivation.
Budapest also manages to build a more layered story line which, paradoxically, allows the central relationship between Gustave and lobby boy Zero to shine. Anderson’s films are at their best when they focus on pairs of characters whose relationship exceeds and skirts vanilla romantic love (Bottle Rocket and Rushmore come particularly to mind). And the stakes of this film, whose setting is a thinly veiled version of the Continent between the two World Wars, are higher and darker than Anderson’s other films. Which all makes for a richer, more satisfying storytelling experience beneath its candy-pink exterior.
Budapest is a refreshing change from the CGI-heavy films of recent years, who sacrifice story for visual spectacle. Anderson’s latest has both. Its well-crafted story, which hurtles the viewer alongside a cast of characters that is an embarrassment of riches, is a captivating triumph.
*Bonus! In case you haven’t seen it, Edward Norton’s episode of Saturday Night Live featured a great Wes Anderson spoof that’s worth a watch. Check it out here.