Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori and a humongous list of familiar names
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
In 1985 a now dead author (Tom Wilkinson) speaks to the camera of his stay in 1968 at a huge, bland and empty decaying hotel in Eastern Europe known as The Grand Budapest Hotel. There in that year the younger he (Jude Law) meets the aging Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who then tells his story of the hotel’s heyday when it was a colourful and bustling hotel in 1932. Mr. Moustafa then tells his story of how he acquired the ownership of this vast hotel. There as a young lobby boy known as Zero (Revolori), Mustafa worked under the wing of smooth talking concierge M. Gustave (Fiennes) who shared extremely close relationships with some of the hotel’s guests, particularly the aging Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). So begins a tale of events and adventures over the next few years of the two of them brought on by the sudden death of Madame D. including murder, art theft and even a prison break out, all to the background on the impending Second World War.
Smug, pretentious, style over substance, insular, alienating and, even, boring! These are all words I have heard attributed to Wes Anderson’s films and his quite unique and familiar style. Well, I would strongly disagree with all those words, but do understand why people may use them, and so The Grand Budapest Hotel will I expect not dissuade Wes Anderson detractors. Wes Anderson’s usual particular use of camerawork is there along with his trademark quirky and colourful set design, headings as narrative cues and every single scene meticulously crafted together. Though for me he is yet to better Rushmore, Grand Budapest Hotel is one of Wes Anderson’s most fun and genuinely comical films yet and most certainly his most adventurous and madcap. It is an immensely watchable and enjoyable delight from start to finish with a plethora of unforgettable characters and moments.
At the heart of the all the madness and expansive cast list are two superb central performances to keep all the increasingly mad, bad and sometimes touching narrative developments together. As the smooth talking, poetry reciting, self confident and slightly vain Gustave, Fiennes gives his best comedic performance since In Bruges (though that was of course a different type of comedy) and is an effortlessly charismatic screen presence, he is a joy to watch and is a pleasure to be in his character’s company. In Moonrise Kingdom Anderson got incredible leading performances from young unknowns and has once again in Tony Revolori. Zero is at first naive and impressionable, but his character develops as his friendship and bond with Gustave develops too and Revolori fits into the Wes Anderson leading character mould perfectly.
Though many of the big names have ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ performances, many still have their own defining moments and are most certainly all enjoying themselves. The other main standout has to be F. Murray Abraham who brings heart and depth to the older Zero. Despite this being Eastern Europe, all the actors talk with their own original accents (English, Northern Irish, American and French to name a few) but that along with the quirky set design and intentionally slightly dodgy action set pieces bring a consistent quirkiness that it seems only Wes Anderson can make work so effortlessly well.
As the narrative developments get increasingly outrageous, lesser directors would possibly lose control of their film and the whole thing would be a mess. However with Anderson’s assured and consistent approach and great leading performances, characters to truly care about, and not to mention plenty of long running subtle gags throughout the narrative and minute little details in shots (I won’t spoil it), The Grand Budapest Hotel is tremendous fun from start to finish. Despite all the comedy, there are still plenty of genuinely moving moments too, only enhanced by our engagement by just how much fun The Grand Budapest Hotel is.
Though Wes Anderson haters may not be converted, for the rest of us The Grand Budapest Hotel is a hugely entertaining and engaging caper from start to finish. With a focus more this time on madcap and subtle comedy, it is also his most outrageously fun film yet.