The Grand Budapest Hotel

Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Jude Law, Léa Seydoux, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel and Mathieu Amalric
In UK Cinemas March 7th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Wes Anderson has had a prolific career to date, with a fanatic public following of his work.  He has written and directed such iconic films as Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and now his latest and potentially greatest effort The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has all of the best Anderson archetypes in one movie.  His unique visual style, his use of stop-motion animation, his loyal cast of endearing celebrities, caricatures of characters, awkward yet endearing performances, hilarious dialogue and extreme situations are all on hand in this film.  The one thing that is new to this Anderson film is the lead actor – Ralph Fiennes makes his Wes Anderson debut as protagonist M. Gustave in what can only be described as a match made in heaven.

I have not previously been a fan of Fiennes’ work, albeit I am well aware that he is a talented actor.  His performance as M. Gustave has been a revelation.  He is perfectly cast in this role of a debonaire hotel concierge who finds himself having a rather special bond with his lobby boy sidekick.  At first it’s hard to imagine Fiennes’ sophisticated persona and thespian acting style in an Anderson film.  A mere twenty minutes into the story, and he has won me over.  He is the heart and soul of this film, and while Anderson’s signature is written all over it, it is certainly Fiennes who elevates this masterpiece to the level of greatness that it has achieved.

The narrative structure is practically Inception in its depth and levels.  This layered narrative device seems gratuitous even for Anderson, but adds that extra bit of charm and opportunity for cameo appearances from the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Jude Law as the character of the author who is being told the story of Gustave.

Gustave is somewhat of a lady’s man as concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel.  With a particular fondness for older ladies, he finds himself one of the main draws of the hotel.  The elderly widow Madame D., played wonderfully over the top by Tilda Swinton, leaves part of her fortune to her beloved Gustave, but in return, her evil son frames Gustave for her murder.  With the aid of his ally, a lobby boy called Zero Moustafa, Gustave begins his adventure and the story of how Zero Moustafa came to be the present day owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel unfolds.

This film is a buddy film at heart.  The duo of Gustave and Zero is a classic relationship, a young man taken under a mentor’s wing.  Zero is the awkward straight man to Gustave’s abundant charm and over the top quirkiness.  The supporting cast of ensemble players outdo themselves with their performances, but Willem Dafoe is perhaps the most central supporting character as an evil leather-clad henchman.  It’s also very nice to see Jeff Goldblum in a notable role.

There is no true way to describe how grand this film indeed is.  It’s best to check yourself into The Grand Budapest Hotel for 99 minutes of pure visceral enjoyment.

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