Grade: A+

Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Saorise Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and others

Wes Anderson's films hit a certain niche of genre audiences that sometimes only work for the ultra-quirky. However, his latest endeavors (2012's Moonrise Kingdom and this year's The Grand Budapest Hotel, for example) tend to reach out towards the everyman while sticking to the unique and original beauty an Anderson film must contain in order to be defined an Anderson film. No other director, save Tim Burton, is so known for his style and attention to detail, no matter how small.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the first brilliant movie to hit screens in 2014. It also holds the fair chance of being remembered come Oscar time despite being released in the first quarter of the year (the time of year when most studios release their "crappy" features). The story begins in 1985 with an author (Tom Wilkinson) realizing in detail how he came to write the story about a famed European hotel and its many characters within. The movie very quickly takes any preconceived notions and throws them from the balcony windows when the plot takes a quick turn to the dramatic and adventure. While the extensive cast and hotel setting may make this seem like a reboot of The Grand Hotel, it's anything but that. We swiftly move from "present day" 1985 to the 1970s as the author, in younger form (Jude Law), finds himself eating dinner with the owner (F. Murray Abraham) of the Grand Budapest Hotel. The story of his acquiring the hotel is one of great adventure and terrible heartbreak.

What works about The Grand Budapest Hotel is the fact that, even though we're somewhat jumping briskly into a story, we never feel left behind or clueless. The characters and setting are so developed that it's easy to believe everything you're seeing. Part of this is due to the incredible production design. Literally every detail is covered. Part is due to Anderson's way of storytelling. Things move at a fast-pace when they need to and slow down when they to. It never feels rushed or boring. It's like a fine piece of music.

The last piece is perhaps Anderson's secret weapon. The cast. A great number of actors have worked with Anderson before and many of them return here. Tilda Swinton is unrecognizable as the old dame whose death is the chess piece that puts everything into motion. Edward Norton is perfect. Adrien Brody is disgusting in a brilliant way. Even Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson pop up. It's the newcomers to Anderson's world that really shine here. Ralph Fiennes plays our main protagonist, M. Gustave, the concierge at the world famous hotel. Tony Revolori is resilient as the young lobby boy apprentice, Zero, who becomes Gustave's best friend. Saorise Ronan plays Agatha, Zero'a love interest and confidant. Others like Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, and Harvey Keitel bring everything together. Anderson has a way of getting his actors to completely realize the story he's telling and the story has never been better told than in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I couldn't get wrapped up enough in the story and I couldn't take my eyes off of every piece of scenery. It all worked so well together that it really makes this seem like an almost-perfect piece of cinema. I am a self-proclaimed Anderson fan, so I know that I approach this from some bias, but the movie is definitely worth your time. The script is smart. The cast is fantastic. It's a fun time at the movies.

Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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