Wes Anderson fans, rest assured, this is Wes Anderson’s most “Wes Anderson” film to date. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a beautifully crafted, encapsulating period piece that oozes the playful, energetic notes the director is known for.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the story of Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), a refugee of a far-flung, difficult to pronounce eastern country and how he comes to own a copious amount of his new found fictional home, Zubrowka, including the hotel itself. The film’s pacing is good; regularly narrated by an aged version of Jude Law’s young writer character who recounts Zero’s story to the audience word-for-word, just as he’d heard from an aged Zero when he was passing through the then less voluptuous hotel when he himself was a younger, travelling man.
The hilariously quirky plot is driven by two interesting and likeable though not the most relatable characters and a host of brief cameo-like appearances from Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzmann and now Harvey Keitel. Adrien Brody’s ravenous Dmitri (Mme D’s son), Jeff Goldblum’s stern-willed attorney and Willem Dafoe’s cold killer are also particularly commendable performances. Ralph Fiennes’ truly incredible performance as M. Gustave is what really carries this film in my opinion though; Revolori’s young, meek Zero is rightly outshined by Gustave’s massive personality which helps us to watch their friendship develop and their social status steadily change with clarity. Not too dissimilar from DeNiro as Ace in Scorsese’s “Casino”, Gustave is the man in charge at the Grand Budapest and does so with panache. Fiennes plays Gustave fearsomely such that he is never without his social airs and graces whether he’s front of house or in prison but to his staff he as strict as what you expect someone who runs one of the finest establishments in the world should be. Gustave is not completely above board though; he has a promiscuous side too, regularly sleeping with regular elderly female guests (“I sleep with most of my friends”) which ultimately drives the plot of the film. Mme D (Tilda Swinton), one of Gustave’s most beloved blonde lady guests dies early in the film and whilst attempting to say a final goodbye he finds out that she bequeathed him a highly desirable priceless painting, “Boy with apple” in her will. The film unfolds as we follow Zero and Gustave as they fight to honour (slightly greedily) Mme D’s final wishes and expose the malicious nature of her money hungry family.
The screenwriting is excellent with lots of great exchanges of witty dialogue between Zero, Gustave and the other characters that had me in stitches (Zero’s interview, for example) and really helped to keep their actions believable. Nothing is forgotten here, there’s actually something for everyone whether you’re a fan of drama, romance, comedy or action.
I liked how from the opening shot to the ending credits, Anderson’s trademark style is apparent and as loveable as always. His different shots of the stunningly designed and vibrantly coloured hotel sets absorb you into the film’s isolated pseudo-eastern European world. Countless panning shots tracking people down hallways give you a sense of the hotels scale, the rotation of the camera on vertical and horizontal axis too made me feel like I was manipulating my own neck to look up to that hotel window or look round that corner in the prison; not to mention the Kubrick-esque still camera shots of the hotel that were particularly impactful. Another example of the masterful cinematography on offer was the fantastic depth of field scenes, notable ones being an early inter-bathtub exchange and when Gustave is chased from the hotel reception desk to the stairs by Edward Norton’s character and his gang of henchmen. As well as all this there were the little things such as familiar-feeling fonts, close-ups of objects on surfaces, flashes of snappy animation, a stylish score and clever use of aspect ratio and the AndersonTM Instagram-like colour grading to indicate the time period that just kept me smiling all the way through.
I saw the first showing of this film in my area, granted it was in the middle of the day there were still only 4 or 5 people in the cinema with me and as much as I’d love to see it kill in the box-office I can’t imagine it will. Films of this like, especially Wes Anderson’s, are not really made for the masses (explosions, Marvel characters…) but instead more, I believe, for the joy of making films eg. Bottle Rocket. It really looked like all the actors knew this too and truly were enjoying themselves (like how each character doesn’t just turn up in the film, they make an appearance) and that made me want to enjoy it more and more. The Grand Budapest hotel is a wonderful experience, transporting you to a different world in an outstandingly convincing fashion; so overall I’d have to say it was “very gooood”.