Extravagantly stylish, insanely star-studded, and darkly hilarious
Delicious and delightful; wild and wicked, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel makes for a stunning new entry to the filmmaker’s unreservedly colourful filmography.If you’re not familiar to the works of Anderson then you may well be in for a surprise; his visual style and brazen wit – coupled with such rapid machine-gun-dialogue that he could give Aaron ‘West Wing’ Sorkin a run for his money – is most certainly an acquired taste. Like a more colourful, comedy-driven counterpart to the Coen brothers, you’ll either love Anderson’s films or hate them. But once you’ve acquired a taste for them, you’ll want to explore every vibrant chapter in his film history – every entry a multi-faceted gem driven by superior ensemble cast work and the same deliciously mischievous wit.High points certainly include one of Gene Hackman’s last great movies, The Royal Tenenbaums, and an animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl tale, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, like you’ve never seen it before; but one of my personal favourites is his Bill Murray-centric The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which is like Moby Dick adapted in the style of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, but The Grand Budapest Hotel competes with all of them for a top spot, offering up a wild and exuberant ride which is – as with all of his features – both unique and quintessentially borne from the brain of Wes Anderson.
Playing around with shifting time-frames and corresponding different aspect ratios, the story predominantly takes place in the 30s, the last pre-War years of glory for the Grand Budapest Hotel, situated in the fictional republic of Zubrowka. There, the concierge Gustave, prides himself of tending to the every needs of the hotel’s clients – he has a reputation for going the extra distance for all of the customers, and the elderly clientele particularly relish their stay at the hotel. When one of his prized clients, Madame D., dies in mysterious circumstances, Gustave finds himself in a whole world of trouble. It seems that Madame D. bequeathed him a valuable painting in her will, and her volatile son is none too happy about the fact. But then the police arrive and charge Gustave with her murder. It falls upon Gustave and his protégé, the young Zero, to uncover the truth and prove his innocence.
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Wes Anderson.
Describing – and indeed reviewing – a Wes Anderson film is a tough ask. And imparting what it would be like to watch your very first Anderson film is nigh on impossible, like describing what your first skydive would be like. Or your first skydive on acid. Suffice to say that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a prime example of both Anderson’s stunning skills and the breadth of his talent. It tears across the decades – and the landscape – at a breakneck pace, cartwheeling away with perfectly-orchestrated whimsy; stopping only for some occasionally quite dark revelations and adult surprises.
Along the way, all of Anderson’s closest collaborators return – Bill Murray making this his seventh Anderson feature – for a variety of colourful characterisations. Adrian Brody and Willem Dafoe try and turn up the threat; Harvey Keitel has a wild time in Maximum Security; Edward Norton goes for hapless and sympathetic; and Tilda Swinton is barely recognisable under all the makeup.
But this is Ralph Fiennes’ baby. Playing the concierge Gustave with above-and-beyond dedication, immaculate tailoring and manners, and a frenetic manner that borders on insanity, Fiennes delivers a tour-de-force performance, complete with impeccable timing and sublime comic wit.
One of the best films of the year so far, The Grand Budapest Hotel is yet another masterwork from the director. But don’t be afraid to dislike this – or any other films from him – they are an undeniable acquired taste. Just be ashamed of saying that you never gave them a chance; that you never explored the wonderful world of Wes Anderson.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.