Fiennes is one of the finest dramatic actors around, but he really gets to give his comedy muscles a workout in Anderson's brilliant, quirky, delightfully funny and wholly original The Grand Budapest Hotel.
It's the tale of charismatic concierge Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes), who rules over his staff with a kind but firm hand while obsequious to the guests of the glamorous spa hotel in the fictional European republic of Zubrowka. And he lavishes particular care and attention to the guests of the rich, elderly and female variety. When one of his aged paramours – Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis, beautifully portrayed by Swinton under layers of latex – passes on, she leaves most of her valuable estate to her family. Except for one particular piece – a priceless Renaissance painting, called Boy With Apple, which she leaves to former lover Gustave. Madame Celine's heirs take issue with her wishes, and dispute the will, so with the aid of his protege, hotel lobby boy Zero (Revolori), Gustave embarks on a plan to acquire what is rightfully his and steal the painting.
There's a framing device of an elderly Zero (Abraham) telling a young writer (Jude Law) about the history of the once-grand hotel, and legendeary concierge that was Gustave, but most of the film is told in flashback and takes place in the 1930s. For Anderson lovers, this film is pure heaven; for the haters, it's not going to change their minds one iota. For those on the fence, such as myself ... well, for me, it's Anderson's best film ever. It's full of his signature quirks: the exacting production design; the exacting camera moves and framing; the eccentric characters; and the usual suspects in the cast (keep your eyes peeled for wonderful, if brief, turns from Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens and more).
It's a lovely, wonderful confection – a clever caper film, and a fantastic farce to boot. But most of all, it's a stunning comic performance from Fiennes that holds it all together. His timing is sublime, and he infuses Gustave with a camp charm among the character's pomposity, fussinesss and the occasional expletive. There are times when you could swear that it's a David Niven or Peter Sellers that you are watching. In fact, in one scene set on board a trian, you could swear that you ARE watching Niven. It will be a great loss if we don't see Fiennes in such comic roles in the future.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a glorious piece of eye candy, full of whimsy and wonder – and a surprising amount of emotion. It's a film that will stay with you long after you switch off the TV, and one that you will want to watch again. Let's see what Anderson can do to top this one.
EXTRAS ★★½ There's the behind-the-scenes featurette Bill Murray Tours the Town (4:18), which follows Murray around the locations where the film as shot; the featurette Vignettes (9:00); the featurette The Making of The Grand Budapest Hotel (18:08); a featurette on the Cast (3:24); and interview with Wes Anderson (3:46); a Stills Gallery; and the Theatrical Trailer (2:26).