It is crazy how much mayhem is contained within the incredible precision of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Ralph Fiennes as its concierge M. Gustave and Tony Revolori as its lobby boy Zero Moustafa lead a marvelous cast in this meticulously played parlor game. Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law are among the many.
There is always great specificity in the way Anderson stacks the deck, but “Budapest” is the writer-director’s grandest gambit yet, every word, every move, every stray hair in its prescribed place. Instead of constricting the comedy, Anderson’s approach unleashes it. Tensions crescendo around the last will of the ancient Madam D, Swinton barely recognizable under towering tresses and sagging skin, but delightful nonetheless. Will the spoils of her life go to a conniving son (Brody) aided by his brass-knuckle enforcer (Dafoe) or the conciliatory concierge? Many tests, trials and tricks are put into play as the estate’s attorney (Goldblum) deliberates. The central story is wrapped within many others, some told years later by a much older Mr. Moustafa (Abraham) to a young writer (Law). Intrigues are shared over dinner in the elegantly empty dining room, as if, like sand in an hourglass, an era is slipping away.
There is great pleasure in seeing the film for the first time; it will take a thousand watchings to take in every delicious morsel. Best start now.