In retrospect, it seems like Wes Anderson's entire career was building up The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was his highest-grossing film, one of his most critically beloved movies, and it marked the first time Anderson ever received an Oscar nomination for directing. So what was behind the movie's popularity?
It's the perfect blend of all things Anderson, from his meticulous world-building and witty dialogue to the melancholy air that hovers over all of his films. But here, he takes things even further, using multiple timelines and aspect ratios to explore nostalgia, manners, and European history, all while walking a tightrope between old world innocence and post-World War II pessimism. It's a whimsical tale with horror on the horizon, where our heroes get to have one last madcap adventure before polite society crumbles.
The plot involves a lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) who comes to work for the flamboyant and foul-mouthed Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) at the Grand Budapest Hotel. Located in the snowy European hills, the hotel is one of Anderson's greatest creations, popping with pastel colors and intricate rooms, all perfectly designed for this fantasy world. Eventually, Zero and Gustave are sucked into a crime involving a dead countess, a valuable painting, and a terrifying thug, and as the movie hurdles forward, Anderson gives us macabre comedy, stylized action scenes, and some of the most lovably quirky characters of his career.
Seriously, where else are you going to see a stop-motion ski chase, a prison break involving pastries, and secret society of colorful concierges? With a brilliant lead performance from Fiennes (put this man in more comedies, please), The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fanciful breath of fresh air in a world full of big-budget superhero flicks. It's proof that style and substance can go hand-in-hand — or at the very least, the two can sustain the illusion with a marvelous grace.