By now, viewers know what to expect from a Wes Anderson movie. It will be clever, precise, funny, absurd and populated with eccentric characters.
There has not yet been an Anderson movie that wasn’t described as “quirky,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will not be the first.
The writer-director isn’t quite able to recapture actual humanity — which he finally displayed in the marvelous “Moonrise Kingdom” in 2012 — but Anderson still manages to expand his repertoire with a slick period piece and screwball comedy that makes a comic star out of the very serious Ralph Fiennes (he’s Voldemort!).
The movie goes through several layers of flashback: In current day, a girl approaches a monument to an author (Tom Wilkinson), who then appears in 1985, only to transport to his younger self (Jude Law) in 1968, where he meets a rich man (F. Murray Abraham), who finally begins to tell the real tale, set in 1932.
No one thinks of Fiennes as a comic actor, but he’s charming and witty as Monsieur Gustave, the legendary concierge at a posh mountain resort in a fictitious European country on the brink of war. Gustave is well-mannered, cultured, dedicated and sexually ambiguous, with a penchant for romancing the richest, most elderly of the hotel’s female guests.
When one of his favorites, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton, covered with 100 years of makeup), passes away, Gustave is left a priceless painting. Her greedy son (Adrien Brody) isn’t happy about it, however, and will go to any length to retrieve it, aided by a cold-blooded killer (Willem Dafoe, at his sinister best).
Death, prison, escape and madcap chase scenes are soon to follow. Fiennes’ timing is perfect, and Tony Revolori is perfect as Gustave’s constant companion, Zero, a devoted young lobby boy in training.