The modern day spinner of cinematic fairytales, Wes Anderson, is like that other “Andersen”–Hans Christian– in his telling of layered fables that have adults, as well as children in their sights. But Wes Anderson accentuates the comedy, like “concupiscent curds” atop a heady brew of murder, mutilation, and even deeper mayhem. His latest THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is, on the surface, a whimsical concoction as pretty as a wedding cake, a multi-tiered tale, within a tale, within a tale of the GRAND and very PINK Hotel Budapest which is presided over by one Gustave H. He is the hotel’s ultra-refined concierge, an omnivorous aesthete who appreciates both sexes, a splash of cologne, and fillip of poetry for every occasion. But he can just as easily drop the f-bomb, exploding the veneer of civility which barely contains the beast in us all. He’s played to fey, flamboyant perfection by Ralph Fiennes, and it’s this character which indicates the method behind Anderson’s madness.
M. Gustave is grooming a new wide-eyed lobby boy named “Zero” (Tony Revolori), when he is not bedding any one of a number of wealthy octogenarians, particularly “Madame D.” She is played by Tilda Swinton, powdered and wigged, equal parts Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of Frankenstein, Marge Simpson, and Marie Antoinette. According to M. Gustave she’s “dynamite in the sack.”
Her sudden and violent demise touches off a family squabble over inheritance and a crazy caper involving a priceless and definitely kitschy piece of Renaissance art: “Boy with Apple.” The painting– which features a young man delicately fondling the fruit’s stem with exceptionally long fingers–should have art historians in hysterics. The plot sends Anderson’s wild and wacky cast of characters careening through the dazzling and snowy Carpathian mountains just outside of Zubrovka (Is that anywhere near Genovia??) on the brink of World War II.
There’s a greedy evil son (Adrien Brody) and a knucklebound henchman with a frightening underbite (Willem Dafoe), a lanky lawyer (Jeff Goldblum) and his soon to be airborn Persian cat. There are monks on skis, daring escapes, cliff-hanging climaxes, plotting pastry chefs and surly prisoners (Saoirse Ronan and Harvey Keitel), a straight arrow soldier whose allegiances are torn (Edward Norton), and a band of clandestine concierges (Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Owen Wilson). It’s all bracketed by the tellers of the tales: Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, and F. Murray Abraham.
Writer/director Anderson’s brilliant screenplay– with its arch dialogue, prettily composed storybook sets, and inspired by the writings of 19th century Viennese author Stefan Zweig– hovers between hilarity and hell. As we stand outside this little snow globe of a world and watch all the little people scurrying about, we find ourselves laughing at the ironies of noses being broken, fingers being severed, and war just beyond the next sugar-coated mountain top. Reserve now at THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. You can check out anytime you want– but you never want to leave.