Posted February 27, 2014 by editor in Film Reviews

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review


Wes Anderson’s latest sees the return of many a familiar face from his back catalogue (Owen Wilson – CHECK! Bill Murray – CHECK! Jason Schwartzman – CHECK! Adrien Brody – CHECK! Jeff Goldblum – CHECK! Willem Dafoe – CHECK! And so on). But heading up the cast this time is Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave H, the Concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel. A brightly decorated and expertly ran establishment.

We follow Gustave as he meets the new porter boy, Zero (Tony Revolori) and takes him under his wing to train him to be the best in the business. But his day to day is interrupted when he hears of the death of Madam D (Tilda Swinton), one of many elderly ladies that Gustave “entertains” when they stay at the hotel.

Eager to pays his respects, Gustave comes up against the extended family of the deceased when they discover that he has been bequeathed a priceless painting in her collection. Things are further complicated when he is imprisoned for her murder. And so continues the caper that is The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Fiennes is a revelation in the role. He’s an amalgam of what could have been various different characters. A man who insists of work being to the highest calibre, diction being of nothing short of the best, admiration of art to be one born of study, but then at the same time he can let his temper flare wild in defence of those you might not expect, his love to be spread across a variety of women, and his use of sudden foul language is almost counteractive to everything else he appears to represent in a human being.

Anderson’s love of set decoration, book covers, and “landscape design as models” has not even slightly waned here He lives in an old fashioned world, and likes to layer his narratives (This one is a book being read as then introduced by the novelist in the preface, as then interviewed by an encountered character at the hotel in the more present, as then looked back in time to the actual time where the story takes place) (Confused?).

Even though the bookends are short it is interesting to note that as each narrow in on the story, so does the borders of the film. The opening sequence is full on wide screen, which is then followed by a higher bordered film, which again changes to 1.85 at the next narrative level. By the time the film has honed in on Fiennes himself and the myriad of characters in his colourful world, we are on full old fashioned square ratio 3:4. Some people may get put off by this form of storytelling, but the characters are so resplendent that it shouldn’t actually be that much of a distraction and the form does fit the director’s storytelling style.

Not everyone gets a fair shake though – and perhaps having so many recognisable faces can work against the film.  Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman for example show up merely because of the director they are associated, and are just as soon gone again.

Edward Norton almost misfires as the head of the armed police – but a large part of this could be that every actor onscreen is pretty much using their own accents. So there is a mix of English, American, Irish and French accents bounded about. Adrien Brody as the head antagonist is good, but isn’t given enough time on screen for the tone of his character to set it: whereas Willem Dafoe is given just the right amount for his silent assassin to have a good sense of dread about him.

But this is Fiennes film, and it is more than a fine performance that registers the character and is easily as memorable as any Steve Zissou or Royal Tennenbaum. The Grand Budapest Hotel is in short, a riotous caper.

5 Stars



Steven Hurst