I’m not particularly wild about Wes Anderson, that much is probably clear to you all by now. His cinematic view of the world just doesn’t usually jive with mine, but I always go into a movie of his with an open mind. Usually, these films don’t do much for me, but now with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson has finally managed to crack my code. While his typical quirk and odd nature is fully on display, this time Anderson has some incredible ambition to go along with it, and for once it didn’t seem like his typically amazing cast was being wasted to some degree. Part of that certainly has to do with getting Ralph Fiennes to take on the lead role, while some of the best supporting parts go to F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, and Saoirse Ronan. Almost all of the Anderson regulars are on call too (more on them later), and everyone does their part. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, I actually cared about the characters and loved how the hotel itself was another character. While this is far from a movie, it’s one that I definitely had a good time with and can recommend with no hesitation whatsoever. If you’re a fan of Anderson’s, this should thrill you, and even if you’re not…perhaps you’ll like this one like I did. I can all but assure you that you won’t hate it, at the very least.
The film is an adventure dramedy centered around the story of Gustave H. (Fiennes), the almost legendary concierge of a rather famous European hotel. After a prologue introducing an author (Tom Wilkinson) a young writer (Law), and a guest named Mr. Moustafa (Abraham), we flash back to between the first and second World Wars, where Gustave has just taken a young lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) under his wing. Not only will he be a top notch mentor, but he’ll become a close friend as well. Before long, Gustave is getting caught up in the theft of a priceless painting and a large sum of money belonging to a deceased guest, leaving him on the run. From there, Gustave literally gets caught up in a brewing war, which in many ways is a metaphor for the hotel itself and the changing times. During the final act especially, there’s some real emotion on display that I’ve really never seen done as effectively in an Anderson film. Coming from me, that’s high praise too. Things drag in the middle after a promising start, but it all comes together quite well in the end, if I do say so myself.
This is truly an ensemble, but there’s a lead performance, and a quite strong one too, on display from Ralph Fiennes. He gets to display some great comedic chops while also delivering a few great monologues, not all of which are meant to elicit laughter. Fiennes is always very good, and that’s no exception here. I can already see him getting a Golden Globe nomination for this role. Also good in a big role is newcomer Tony Revolori, who handles the dialogue with aplomb. Revolori is one to watch, as he’s likely going places. F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law share some very nice scenes together (Abraham in particular is the emotional center of the whole thing), while Saoirse Ronan has some excellent ones with Revolori. In terms of the supporting players, in addition to the aforementioned Wilkinson, we have the likes of Mathieu Amalric, Bob Balaban, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Fisher Stevens, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, and others. They’re all a lot of fun (with Brody, Deafoe, and Goldblum being my favorite of this bunch), and I can see everyone having their own individual favorites. For me though, it’s Fiennes.
Wes Anderson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Hugo Guinness, has challenged himself as a filmmaker and the result is his best directed movie to date. The writing is about on par for what he normally does, but for me the combination of his script with the production design (which is nomination worthy to me) made for a more successful directorial endeavor than usual. The flick is just a few minutes too long and definitely drags in the middle, but it’s got a bubbly personality that really helps you through. Especially considering the ending, it’s safe to say that Anderson was able to fully execute his vision here.
Overall, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a real good time at the movies and one of the highlights of the first quarter of 2014 for me. It’s not something that’s going to crack my year end top ten list or anything of the sort, but it’s a nice film and well worth seeing. Especially for Fiennes’ lead performance, this is a delight even for non Anderson fans like myself. Fans of his though will go wild for this one, trust me there. Regardless, everyone should check The Grand Budapest Hotel out. It’ll be a stay in the theater that you won’t regret one bit…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!