The Grand Budapest Hotel review

Review Ryan Lambie 5 Mar 2014 - 05:56

Wes Anderson returns with the complex adventure yarn, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here's Ryan's review of a star-studded film...

You can tell a lot about the amount of respect and creative clout a director has by the well-known actors they can afford to sneak into tiny supporting roles. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s reputation is such that he can hire Jeff Goldblum to appear in a handful of (admittedly brilliant) scenes as a bespectacled solicitor, a latex-clad Tilda Swinton for a matter of seconds as a wealthy dowager, and Harvey Keitel as a tattooed convict - and that's just a small sample of The Grand Budapest Hotel's star-encrusted cast.

Aside from Anderson’s obvious stature as a filmmaker, the possible reason such actors (and many more besides) queue up to appear in a film like The Grand Budapest Hotel is because he can make every character, large or small, leap out of the screen. Tilda Swinton shows up on the screen for a matter of seconds, but her extraordinary countenance is such that you can still recall exactly what she looks like when the end credits have rolled 100 or so minutes later.

More than any other Anderson film so far - even more so than his stop motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox - The Grand Budapest Hotel is a ripping adventure yarn of Tintin proportions. And it’s a testament to Anderson’s skill that he can tell a lengthy story featuring dozens of characters and an absurdly convoluted plot, and make it whistle by in two hours where most other directors would cheerfully stretch to three.

Here, Ralph Fiennes plays Gustav, a raffish, garrulous concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, located in a fictional country somewhere in the middle of Europe. Gustav’s effusive personality - not to mention his indiscriminate relationships with his guests - is the key to the lavish hotel’s success, as rich guests come from far and wide to be flattered and sometimes seduced by their silver-tongued host.

Around the time that new, fresh-faced bellboy Zero (Tony Revolori) arrives on the payroll, Tilda Swinton’s rich dowager suddenly dies in her opulent mansion. With Zero in tow, Gustav heads to the country pile to hear the reading of the will, and discovers that not only has he been bequeathed a priceless painting by a Northern Renaissance artist, but he’s also been framed for murder by the dowager’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and his ruthless sidekick Jopling (Willem Dafoe, here channelling some of the Nosferatu role he played so memorably in Shadow Of The Vampire). With Gustav arrested, Zero attempts to help clear his master’s name, while Gustav uses his charm to organise a daring escape attempt from his Colditz-like prison.

There’s far, far more to the plot than this - as well as the 30s-era intrigue, there are two wrap around stories, one set in 1985 with Tom Wilkinson as an author, another set in the late 1960s with Jude Law as a younger version of the same author (though oddly with less hair than Wilkinson), a secret society of bellboys, monks, Ed Norton as a German policeman (this time choosing not to use the same iffy Teutonic accent he attempted in The Illusionist), plus a romantic subplot involving Saoirse Ronan as a baker.

It’s a complicated story, but Anderson makes deceptively light work of it, moving from comedy to pathos to moments of sudden violence with the kind of ease that’s all too easy to take for granted. For most, Anderson’s style as a filmmaker will be familiar by now, and he doesn’t branch out far beyond his usual bag of tricks here, but there’s no denying that he’s a distinctive and unique director with one of the most immediately recognisable styles of any filmmaker currently working.

His fantastical, pop-up book version of 1930s Europe - complete with a fictional fascist army roaming the frozen countryside - is something only Anderson could come up with, and like his most stylised films, The Grand Budapest Hotel feels as though it's been designed with almost geometric precision.

Anderson's exacting approach knocks some of the tension out of the handful of shoot-outs and chase scenes, but he's really good at introducing abrupt jabs of violence and menace. The director's fully-formed worlds seem cosy and soft around the edges, but occasionally, nasty things happen that pack a proper, visceral punch.

It's the quality of the performances, though, that really sticks in the mind. Fiennes is on magnificent form as Gustav, and his screen chemistry with Tony Revolori's sad-eyed bellboy is the beating heart in a witty, visually captivating and sometimes poignant film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is out on the 7th March.

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DoG in great review shocker!

I was lucky enough to see a preview on Sunday. Admittedly I'm very much a fan of all his films, but can honestly say I loved every minute of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Those who don't like his style (and fair enough if it is not to their taste) will find little to convert them here.
However I find the enforced artifice, to be nothing more than a very recognisable signature, and for me the story shines through each time. TGBH has an exquisitely plotted story and a fully committed performance from Ralph Fiennes to hang it on.
Wes Anderson fans will not be disappointed.

Good review. It seems the general consensus of this movie is that if you're a fan of Wes Anderson's work you will love this movie. Now if only a cinema near me was actually showing it I could get excited for it.

See I've heard that even if you don't like Wes Anderson you'll enjoy this one.

I know what you mean about "if only a cinema near me was actually showing it". Looks like it's a trip to the city for this one!

Saw this the other week, as part of a film festival day, and really enjoyed it - great fun

Saw it at a preview screening on Sunday and took along my grandfather who is reluctant to become enveloped in the particular style of Anderson's films (I'm a massive fan). 'It's better than I thought it was going to be' was his succinct response.
I think more could be said about Fiennes' performance. He is outstanding.

I'm more inclined to say 'great film in cinema shocker' because the last couple of weeks have been truly dismal in the world of cinema...all that post oscar film dead space!

Admittedly I'm having to travel to the second nearest multiplex to where I live but I've got my trip planned for next Monday and I can't wait. I hope you find somewhere that shows it before it disappears...

The last couple of weeks? make that the last couple of years lol

I'll admit that Anderson's films have never really appealed to me. To date the only one of his I had seen all the way through was Fantastic Mr Fox (love the animation, but not exactly a kids film. Rather too existential). So I went in not knowing what to expect. It seemed fun and funny from the trailers, but we all know how misleading they can be.

Happily, I can say that I was most pleasantly surprised. Not only was I wearing a smile for most of the run time but there are genuine laugh out loud moments. The pace whips along, its just on the right side of quirky, and some of the dialogue is good enough to eat. Its a caper worth trying to catch if you can.

Just great. The only other Anderson film I've seen is Fantastic Mr Fox, which is love, so after enjoying this even more, I'm determined to catch up on the rest of his stuff. Just brilliantly entertaining and funny and spirited and imaginative. Loved it.

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