Friday 11 April 2014

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's eighth directorial feature, and his most visually striking yet. A director known for his distinct colourful aesthetic and dark-tinged humour, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a riotous adventure full of Alpine hijinks, stolen artwork and squashed cats.

Set in the fictitious European country of Zubrowka (and filmed on location in Germany), The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the story of Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the charming and devoted hotel concierge, as told by his dutiful protege and lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). The story begins with an author (played by Jude Law) dining with an older version of Zero (F. Murray Abraham) at the Grand Budapest in 1968, after the hotel has fallen on hard times. The elderly Moustafa begins to recount the story of how he and Gustave claimed ownership of the hotel back in 1932.

Working as a lobby boy, Zero is present by Gustave's side as his mentor is accused of murder following the death of elderly guest (and lover of Gustave) Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who bequeathed a priceless painting entitled 'Boy With Apple' to Gustave. It isn't long before Gustave and Zero has the police hot on his heels, and the family of Madame D. baying for his blood.

In terms of narrative, I liked the way in which Grand Budapest Hotel traversed several timelines, following both the Author and Old Zero simultaneously as the primary timeline, during the hotel's heyday. The story trots along at a merry pace, with the various hijinks surrounding Gustave and Zero very quickly spiralling out of control.

Aesthetically, you'd be hard pushed to find a film as distinct in flavour as Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014. As one can expect from Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel is rich in colour, from the deep purples of the hotel staff to the soft pinks adorning cake boxes and the stark whites covering the mountain tops.

Not just that, but I found myself marvelling over each and every shot in this film. It felt as though you could pluck out any frame from the 100 minute runtime, frame it and put it on the wall, such was the purposefulness and depth of thought poured into the direction. The film really is a beauty to behold, with every intricate detail. The camera work (and how Anderson moved the camera) was also a notable element, with the director's distinctive dolly shots and zooms present in Grand Budapest. I could go on about how well directed this film was, and how gorgeous the cinematography was for a while so we should probably move on.

The film has a humongous cast, with Anderson regulars like Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson all cropping up in some way, shape or form. Edward Norton was great as the police captain Henckels, whilst Willem Dafoe also stood out as a particularly nasty villain, Jopling. I also liked Jeff Goldblum's character Deputy Kovacs, and no-one can ever get enough of Bill Murray - he's great.

However, the real star of the show was the concierge himself, Ralph Fiennes. Showing off his comedic ability, Fiennes was hilarious as the devilishly charming Gustave. It's hard to pinpoint or put into words the exact reason for this brilliance, but there was something hugely entertaining and wondrous about Gustave, and the delicate inflections and idiosyncrasies he brought to every line of dialogue. "Can I interest any of you fellas in a plate of mush?" shouldn't be clutch-your-sides funny, but Fiennes makes it work.

Also, he makes swearing so damn funny - there are some films where the swearing is an instant turn-off (i.e. Melissa McCarthy in The Heat) but in Grand Budapest Hotel, Fiennes dropping the F-bomb was side-splitting stuff, possibly because it was done in moderation. In fact, the whole thing is really funny, funnier than many supposed 'comedies' are.

Completing a trifecta of awesomeness are Tony Revolori and Saoirise Ronan as loved-up couple Zero and Agatha. In what is his first feature film, Revolori was great alongside Fiennes, the duo working wonders with the rat-a-tat quips spaced throughout the script. The two put together formed the emotional backbone of the story, underlining how The Grand Budapest Hotel isn't just a wacky comedy with zero (pun intended) substance. Anderson's film is one that is brilliantly balanced, combining elements of frivolity and seriousness.

There is honestly very little I can fault this film on; I can understand why it wouldn't appeal to everyone however, and Grand Budapest possibly isn't going to win Anderson universal acclaim from audiences. His style is simply too unique and zany to appeal to everybody. Well, to those people I say this - you don't know what you're missing.

The Verdict: 9/10

Proving that one can mix both style and substance, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most refreshingly original and eye-popping visits to the movies you will have this year. It's a hoot from start to finish, mixing an excellent cast with a dazzling script and beautiful direction. 


  1. Nice review, and I especially love your line about how you can take any single frame from this film and put it on your wall. It's so true, this movie is just marvelous to behold like that. :)

    1. Thanks mate :) The more I think about it, the more I love this movie! Definitely an early contender for my top 10 of 2014.



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