BANGALORE: When one steps into Wes Anderson's cinematic universe, one must do it with simple reverence and an earnest suspension of disbelief. And after a touching coming of age film like Moonrise Kingdom, when Wes Anderson decides to come out with a wildly imaginative, visually breathtaking, no holds barred story; his grandest yet, in fact; one must simply keel over and submit. Because who else can turn a story set in the World War 2 era into a compassionate yet breezy comedy about an unlikely friendship, on a scale like that and get away with it? No one. And that's why you should watch The Grand Budapest Hotel.
We could have stopped the review here, but since white space beckons, here's what the movie is about.
We get to know the story of this establishment from the diary written by The Author (Jude Law) and what a story it is! The Author (As a Young Man) who is residing at the remote hotel, now in a state of poor upkeep, chances upon the hotel's owner, the magnificently bearded Zero Moustafa (F Murray Abraham), who agrees to narrate the story of how he ended up with this hotel and more importantly, why he refuses to part with it.
Zero takes us back in time, when he was a lobby boy at The Grand Budapest, under the wings of the legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave H-played by the inimitable Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes is not merely the concierge of the hotel, he is the Grand Budapest. And we get to know why- his life is about tending to every need of the hotel’s exclusive clientele, and in the case of some elderly female clients, it does mean every need.
One of the dames who is in need of servicing is the improbably named Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis, mercifully referred to as Madame D.
Madame D, as Zero informs Monsieur Gustave, passes away a month later, and the two of them go to her home to express their condolences, and arrive in time to hear the reading of the will. As it happens, the grateful client has left her most precious possession- a painting titled Boy With Apple- to Gustave, earning him the endless enmity of her family.
The two then proceed to purloin the painting, resulting in predictable mayhem, including a jail term, and a memorable breakout. The kind of supporting cast that has graced this movie could be the main cast of almost all the movies we've grown to love - Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray (of course), Harvey Keitel, Mathieu Amalric, Edward Norton and my favourite - the indefatigable, cut-throat thug that is Willem Dafoe.
Quirky might be a lazy word to use while describing characters that grace Wes Anderson’s films, but that is no insult. Which other living film maker of this Hollywood generation gives us so many memorable characters in all their films - let alone one? There is a strange kind of harmony in the film, strange only because everything seems so perfect, but quite expected from someone as predictably delightful as Wes Anderson. His canvas is so large, embellished with such whimsical detail, that as audience, we can sometimes only gape in awe. And that is his greatest strength as a director, his eye for detail when it comes to set design, costumes and just plain ambiance; they add layers to a story that can be peeled back through multiple sittings of the film.
Anderson is a true treasure of present day cinema, and this movie is another gem from his inscrutable brain. Savour him while you can.
Verdict: The Wes Anderson template grows ever more charismatic, vivid and breathtakingly rich with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Cinema at its visual and visceral best.
Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton