The Grand Budapest Hotel

Can one call this movie anything other than a "confection"?

After regaining art house box office relevance with his charming if twee Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson stays in the madcap period picture wheelhouse with this caper comedy, set in the 1930s in a fictional Eastern European country called Zubrowka. Ralph Fiennes, a newcomer to the Anderson stable of actors (many of whom cameo in this picture), stars as Gustave H., the impeccable concierge at the hotel of the film's title. When he and his faithful lobby boy (Tony Revolori) make off with a valuable painting bequeathed to him by one of his aged mistresses, both her heirs and the police give chase.

While all the expected Anderson touches are here - the wildly precise production design, the dry wit, the Bill Murray appearance - he also frees himself up to try a few unexpected things. For example, much of the movie is presented in the square 1930s film aspect ratio. And while the story itself could easily work in a PG-13 (or even PG!) picture, Anderson peppers his dialogue with F-bombs and gives us a few surprising moments of grisly violence.

It's as though, bolstered by the success of Moonrise Kingdom, the director feels he doesn't have to conform to any conventions anymore; he knows people will see this film because of the Wes Anderson "brand". It's the rare filmmaker who can claim this sort of thing and still take in a decent box office haul, and Anderson is striking while the iron is hot.

Outside of a couple of scenes which go on too long, I found The Grand Budapest Hotel to be a satisfying romp. As with Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has retreated from the clumsy, unconvincing pathos he attempted in The Royal Tenenbaums and its two follow-ups, and instead pours all of his creativity into nothing more than pure whimsy. (The film, at times, feels like a live action cartoon.) There is a bit of poignance at the end, as the lobby boy's older self (F. Murray Abraham) reflects on Gustave H.'s Old World chivalry decades later, but it doesn't really stay with you.

See this film for the visual triumph that it is, and be amused by the offbeat characters and overall silliness. Fiennes is nothing less than superb, and I appreciated Anderson's choice of having all his actors speak with their native accents, be they American or British or Irish. In the mythical Zubrowka, what's the difference?