Few characters lack any semblance of internal monologue the way M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) lacks internal monologue. Gustave says exactly what he’s thinking and rarely stops talking — qualities that do lend themselves well to working in a hotel.
We meet Gustave, the hero of director Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” in the fabled flashback-inside-a-flashback where most of the film takes place. It might even be a flashback-inside-a-flashback-inside-a-flashback — a feat I only remember being accomplished in “Ghosts of Mars” — but that’s not important. It all makes sense, I swear, thanks to the film’s period-appropriate aspect ratios.
We’re first introduced to the hotel itself after years of neglect have taken a toll. Employees sit around smoking cigarettes in the lobby and restaurant as they wait for a guest to serve. The hotel’s owner (F. Murray Abraham) recalls the hotel’s livelier days when he worked as a lowly lobby boy named Zero and served as Gustave’s right-hand man.
It is one nutty story and, fortunately, I’ve said about as much about the story as I can without spoiling something important. Sure, the film’s got dozens of surprises — large and small alike — but I’d feel bad ruining any of them.
Anderson obviously wanted to have a really good time with “Budapest,” and it shows. The story bounces around, manically, in long takes that move across intricate sets. The film occasionally breaks into crude Monty Python-esque animations that, somehow, fit in perfectly with Gustave and Zero’s adventures.
I expect to be wowed by the precise color palette chosen for each of Wes Anderson’s frames. He might have outdone himself with “Budapest.” Each of the film’s many locations has a unique look and feel that usually matches the mood of the heroes’ current situation.
I believe the film is best described as “delightfully silly.”
Gustave is one weird egg, a shameless heathen with a huge heart, and I’m not sure it’s possible to spend two hours with this guy and not smile the whole time. Fiennes is perfect in the role, too, somehow managing to play the role straight and earnest while maintaining perfect comic timing.
Tony Revolori earns big laughs as Zero, who is equal parts assistant and voice of reason for Gustave. Zero usually looks confused — it’s usually warranted — but moves with a sense of urgency. Every great hero needs a fitting sidekick and Gustave, well, wouldn’t be Gustave without Zero.
So maybe “great hero” isn’t the right way to describe Gustave — he constantly says unintentionally offensive things and embraces his shameless desires — but he walks as tall as the best of them.
I laughed throughout “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the rare film that’s as funny as it is fun to look at. I was constantly surprised thanks to both the characters and interesting plot twists.
“Budapest” works on two oddly different levels, too. On one hand it’s intensely, aggressively interested in the energetic story. But, no matter where the adventure has taken him, Gustave is constantly Gustave. He never flinches, worries or breaks a sweat. He’s the calmest character I’ve run across since The Dude, another constant force surrounded by crazy people, crazy rich families and general insanity.
The only real problem I had with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was that it ended. The film’s a perfect length, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t want to leave the party. I could have happily spent two more hours with these wonderful characters in their beautiful, carefully crafted film.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is rated R for language, some sexual content and violence.
Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.