The Grand Budapest Hotel: Film Review
The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s greatest cinematic achievement yet, bursting with bold visuals and dynamic storytelling.
There are certain directors whose distinct trademarks and palettes make their works instantly recognizable, and within this specific subgenre of auteur filmmakers, it’s Wes Anderson who’s most clearly forged his own style of visuals and framing. Thanks to his reliable affection for symmetry, pastel color grading, and quirky humor, it’s never difficult to recognize when you’re watching one of Wes Anderson’s projects – but The Grand Budapest Hotel is arguably the movie that most transparently represents everything that Anderson has woven into his style over the course of his extensive and acclaimed career.
The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of the titular establishment’s long-term concierge, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), who finds himself wrapped in conspiracy when he’s wrongly convicted of a high-profile murder. Throughout his journey to prove his innocence and uncover the truth, Gustave befriends a young lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) who helps him along the way. While this story is often overlooked as a simple comedy, Anderson manages to weave a subtly powerful narrative about the value of friendship and compassion into it, elevating his writing and ensuring that even when the film veers heavily into the eccentric, there’s always an intimate heart to the plot that keeps things grounded and engaging.
Like every other project Anderson has directed, The Grand Budapest Hotel narrowly balances the line between drama and comedy with complete success. Every single joke (of which there are countless) is undercut with some real emotion and stakes that prevent the film’s comedy from ever becoming too overbearing. Anderson shows a level of restraint that he’s rarely managed before, often sacrificing easy jokes to ensure a more consistent, balanced tone that works really well. The director has a tendency to sometimes prioritize one over the other, but The Grand Budapest Hotel represents a more mature and comprehensive level of writing that was a powerful step forward in his filmmaking career.
In the years since the film’s release, the single aspect of The Grand Budapest Hotel that’s remembered most fondly and consistently has undeniably been its visual creativity. There are very few films out there that adopt such a bold and distinct style – and even fewer that manage to maintain this right until the final frame. Anderson’s signature use of symmetry, irregular framing and distanced shots keeps things visually inventive throughout, elevating the film even higher than its narrative prowess had already achieved. The phrase “style over substance” is often thrown around by critics when discussing movies that are so obviously concerned with their visual flair, but the criticism just doesn’t apply to The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s the rare example of a movie whose style enhances the substance, rather than replacing it.
Wes Anderson’s projects are often celebrated for their all-star casts, and while the director has managed to collate even larger ensembles in movies such as The French Dispatch and Asteroid City, the number of talented actors and actresses in The Grand Budapest Hotel is unbelievably impressive. Fiennes is undeniably the star of the show in the lead role, but there are several other recognizable faces that appear for brief scenes and completely steal the show for a short amount of time. These include Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Edward Norton – among countless others. Every single member of the ensemble is clearly enjoying themselves on-set, which results in a series of entertaining performances that just burst with life and whose bright energy meshes excellently with the equally electric visual palette on display.
Wes Anderson continues to develop his style and make even bolder creative decisions with every project that he releases, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever replicate the thematic and optical vibrancy of The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s the kind of film that reaffirms why Anderson is so popular and well-known as both a director and a writer, proving once again that despite any hesitancies audiences may have with his maximalist approach, there are very few directors who can pull together such mature and powerful stories without sacrificing the childlike wonder of his cinematic eye.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is now available to watch on digital and on demand. Watch The Grand Budapest Hotel!