15. Jason Schwartzman
A perennial Anderson troupe-member, Schwartzman must’ve drawn the shortest straw for Grand Budapest, as he’s offered little more than a few lines of expository dialogue.
14. Bill Murray
Unfortunately, Bill’s role here is the smallest of any his Anderson collaborations. Still, his appearance caused a legitimate stir of excitement in the audience I saw the film with – Anderson uses him here like the world’s coolest deus ex machina.
13. Jude Law
Jude’s role is heavily front-loaded and he winds up being far less prominent than he seems to be at first. Alas, as I would’ve enjoyed seeing him get a chance to play off some of the performers featured in other parts of the film.
12. Owen Wilson
Owen’s role is barely significant, but I got a sizeable laugh merely from hearing him introduced as “Monsieur Chuck.” He’s comes off as completely anachronistic (borderline distracting, really), which gives his brief appearance an enjoyably off-kilter tinge.
11. Saoirse Ronan
With a character that’s ill defined beyond her employment at a high-end bakery and a facial birthmark resembling the outline of Mexico, Saoirse makes the most of a secondary role.
10. F. Murray Abraham
Abraham is solid if unremarkable (not as revelatory as he was in Inside Llweyn Davis, at least) in a narrative-driving role, effectively imbuing his character with a sense of loss and sadness.
9. Tom Wilkinson
Wilkinson is great in a short and funny scene in which he loses his temper at a child.
8. Jeff Goldblum
Goldblum delivers a rather restrained performance by his own standards, with less of the idiosyncratic mannerisms and strange line-readings that we’ve come to expect. But he’s still great fun, doing Jeff Goldblum-ian things like striding briskly through museum hallways with a long black overcoat and a magnificent salt-and-pepper goatee.
7. Tilda Swinton
Completely unrecognizable under a top-notch makeup job that turns her into an 84-year-old dowager, Tilda is ranked here mostly for the impressive quality of her transformation and the absurdity of her character.
6. Ed Norton
In a role that plays off his character in Moonrise Kingdom, Norton once again excels at a punctilious authoritarian who appears to be repressing a distressing personal calamity. There’s something disturbing lurking just beneath the surface of these precise, rigid personas.
5. Tony Revolori
In a crucial but understated role, newcomer Revolori brings a greatly appreciated straight man’s delivery – everyone around him is hamming it up, but he keeps the movie in check with his grounded performance.
4. Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe has a history of scene stealing in Anderson’s films – his hilarious Klaus Daimler would be ranked first for The Life Aquatic – and he’s great here as a threatening, edentulous henchman.
3. Harvey Keitel
Generally shirtless, revealing some of the worst prison tattoos ever captured on film as well as oddly spasmodic old-guy muscles, Keitel is predictably and enjoyable coarse in the part of a ravaged prison convict.
2. Adrien Brody
Brody is hilarious in the film’s most villainous role, clad in all black and dispatching ridiculous insults. I didn’t think he had this kind of angry, misanthropic range in him (I always think of him as kind of a tame, beleaguered hero), but he walks away with most scenes in which he appears.
1. Ralph Fiennes
Fiennes is the heart and soul of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson’s critical darlings (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom) and failures (The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited) are separated by the extent to which they find emotional truths in their twee preciosity. His movies are inherently self-conscious and deliberately artificial, but when he’s at his best there is a genuine undercurrent of emotion submerged beneath those ironic stylings. Unfortunately, when he’s subpar (granted, it’s still better than 95% of filmmakers), his movies become the kind of postmodern shaggy-dog stories that make people want to throw rocks at hipsters. While Grand Budapest Hotel verges on the latter at times (the suffering of these characters is often just an opportunity for a good laugh), there’s an unexpected, bittersweet sincerity to many scenes that give it a lasting resonance. Fiennes is the biggest reason why Grand Budapest Hotel succeeds and ultimately finds itself on the right side of Anderson’s hit-or-miss trajectory – he’s hilarious, yes, but he also brings an underplayed pathos to the part. Thought at times his Gustave H. seems little more than a self-serving prick, his loyalty and perseverance gives the audience a crucial point of entry. Hopefully, Fiennes will be justly remembered when next year’s award season rolls around.