"The Grand Budapest Hotel" offers a bouncing cast of unpredictable characters, albeit mostly men, and a setting both exotic and fabulous, in times of intrigue and places of snow, amid colors orange and red (an elevator cube), and purple, its royalty reduced to livery. You cannot confuse "The Grand Budapest Hotel" with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." or even "Grand Hotel."
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very special place with very special concierges, one of whom is Gustave H., played by the amazing Ralph Fiennes. It is mostly his story that regales his followers, including a young writer, played by Jude Law with sincerity; he faces the camera, next to an orange typewriter, to frame one of the stories that envelopes another and another. They go back in time, starting with the Eighties when the hotel is frumpy to its glory days when M. Gustave responds to all guests' needs, especially if they are old and blond and rich.
One of those guests is Madame D., a dowager with dollars; she is played, almost beyond recognition by Tilda Swinton. Her death brings Gustave to her casket, accompanied by his protege, a lobby boy played joyously by Tony Revolori; Young Zero is eager to learn.
From there, the story squirrels around intrigue and threats involving Willem Dafoe, pasteries involving Saoirse Ronan, plus imprisonment and escape, plus a perfume called l'air panache. None of it makes a lot of sense, and all of it is fun.
Part of the fun is naming well-made-up and costumed actors: "That's-Who's-its!" and "That's What'shisname," from Harvey Keitel to Adrien Brody to Jeff Goldblum, not playing himself for a change. But part of the admiration falls on the lighting, including sfumato from the smoke in the lobby, or in the delightful camera angles, down a dress or up a nose close in a carriage, or from on high looking into a forlorn lobby. More admiration is due the script in Anderson's pen, for example, one character "would not know chiaroscuro from chicken giblets."
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" floats on l'air du panache and makes everything within sniffing distance a force of farce.