<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Saorise Ronan, Tony Revolori, F Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson
Weird and wonderful, quirky and stunning, Wes Anderson’s films are always a joy to watch and experience. And so it is with The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore) is kind of like the Tim Burton of drama-comedies. He always has these weird characters played by eccentric actors, many of who are the director’s usual suspects. The visual styling of his films is always interesting, full of symmetry, colour and visual trickery. And his humour can sometimes be dark. In fact, the role that is played by Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel was apparently to be played by Johnny Depp (Tim Burton’s friend and favourite muse), who dropped out.
Tom Wilkinson is an author who narrates his story to the audience and you flash back to when he was young and played by Jude Law he is in the Grand Budapest Hotel in a fictional nation called Zubrowka. The owner, a Zero Moustafa (F Murray Abraham) befriends the young author and tells him of how he came about to own the magnificent hotel. So story within story we are taken on the journey.
You see Zero used to be a lobby boy at The Grand Budapest Hotel under the charge of the head concierge M Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who used to keep everything spick and span. And he’d give special service to his elderly female guests one of whom, a Madame D (Tilda Swinton, in make-up to make her look 100) was so enchanted by him she left him in her will.
M Gustave and his young lobby boy (Tony Revolori) set off to claim the prize, Boy with Apple but Madame D’s heir Dmitri (Adrien Brody) will have none of it and sets his bodyguard (Willem Dafoe) on a quest to be rid of Gustave while also implicating him in his mother’s death. Off to jail Gustave goes and thus ensues a series of wonderfully funny events involving a jailbreak.
All right so it’s not that much the plot but the execution of The Grand Budapest Hotel that is the true charmer here. The quirkiness of the characters, the skit-like quality of the scenes and use of models and animation all come together to produce a film that is visually and aurally unique.
So is that all there is to the film then? Well mostly. But despite the film’s lack of too much emotional depth, it has an endearing quality. This is in most part due to the chemistry between Ralph Fiennes’s M Gustave and Tony Revolori’s Zero. Both have performed masterfully.
Saorise Ronan and Jude Law really don’t have much to do. The host of other actors all make the film bubble with mirth and gusto.
Written by Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel has some fine dialogue that is sometimes more poetic than the couplets that are delivered by the characters (but rarely ever completed making for hilarious interruptions). It’s not for the average crowd but a more discerning audience who’ll appreciate the whimsy.