Movie review: Wes Anderson goes grand in “Budapest Hotel”

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From the March 20, 2014 edition

For almost two decades, Wes Anderson has firmly established himself as the Quirkmaster General of American Cinema. It’s tough to name another director whose signature style is quite so unmistakably his. Quentin Tarantino comes to mind, but that’s about it.

Anderson has carved out his whimsical little corner of the film world, and he’s honed his skills to fit that niche, from his visual sense to the storybook characters and plotlines he weaves.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is Anderson’s most, well, grand movie yet. Whether fans consider it among his best will likely come down to what their previous favorite Anderson flicks were, but its quality isn’t up for debate.

Over the years we follow the saga of the magnificently named Zero Moustafa (played by Tony Revolori as a young man and F. Murray Abraham as an old man). When we meet him, he’s an impossibly wealthy man staying in the lovely hotel of the title.

How he got to be an impossibly wealthy man is a grand tale from his beginnings as an eager hotel lobby boy under the tutelage of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes).

Gustave is a legendary concierge who knows how to make his wealthy guests happy — particularly older lonely women. “When you’re young, it’s all filet cuts,” Gustave notes, “but as you get older, you have to go for the cheaper cuts.”

When one of his wealthy paramours dies, Gustave and Zero end up in the middle of a battle for a huge family fortune and a priceless painting.

“Budapest Hotel” runs in the vein of Anderson’s more exotic pictures (think “The Life Aquatic” and “The Darjeeling Limited”). I tend to favor his poppier fare (“Moonrise Kingdom” and “Bottle Rocket” are still my favorites), but I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

Visually, it may be Anderson’s most beautiful movie yet. Cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman (a frequent Anderson collaborator) works in multiple aspect ratios to reflect the films of each era depicted.

Newcomer Revolori is delightful as young Zero, but this movie belongs to Ralph Fiennes. It’s one of the most fun performances Anderson has ever captured.

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight