“Quirky” is just going to be one of those words that follows Wes Anderson around his entire career. It’s a shame as I think it does a disservice to his films. Yeah, they’re quirky, but not in the modern sense of those irritating“OMG soo randum” people you know who seems to have cobbled together personalities from a hundred different oddball shit sitcom characters. No, they’re quirky in the more literal way of being unexpected , offbeat and peculiar, not only in their presentation and humour, but also in the way that Anderson seems to be one of the few directors around who just makes the films they want to make without compromise. Case in point, The Grand Budapest Hotel, the Wes Andersoniest film that ever Wes Andersoned.
The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of an aged author (Tom Wilkinson) who recalls a trip to the famous Grand Budapest as a younger man (Jude Law). During his visit, he talked to the hotel’s owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who tells him the fascinating story of how he came to own the place via the hotel’s original concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). As you may be able to tell from that slightly confusing summary, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wheels-within-wheels type of film with three main stories each with their own framing devices and aspect ratios. It’s fantastic at giving you a sense of the lasting legacy of the hotel. All the cast are great, especially Ralph Fiennes as Gustave. The guy’s hilarious and his double act with relative newcomer Tony Revolori as the young and loyal Zero is a joy. The rest of the cast tend to just pop in for quick but welcome cameos. Special mentions go to the barely recognisable Tilda Swinton and the always awesome Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum.
Much like the admittedly delicious looking desserts that feature in the film, I’m loathe to dissect this film because it’s pretty and well-made. Still, it’s sort of my thing to nitpick and analyse. Thinking about it, this is probably the most accessible of Anderson’s films barring Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s still heavily stylised, but I can’t imagine many people not connecting with a sort-of whodunnit tale and endearing characters. The stories within stories approach is handled with a deft touch and never gets too complicated or muddled.
Whilst it does have some of Anderson’s trademark darkness and bleak outlook, Grand Budapest is probably the most light-hearted and jauntiest of his films in recent memory. It’s genuinely funny throughout and some of scenes, be them featuring Gustave being brilliant or wry one-liners had me laughing like a fool. When I wasn’t chuckling, I was smiling broadly. Anderson has a great way of making something like a static shot of people in a cramped lift amusing. It’s all very charming and the perfect antidote to some of the headache inducing dross I’ve had to see lately. Visually, the film’s a stunner with the interior sets being absolutely gorgeous. As I said, it is all heavily stylised, but it all adds to the film’s charm. There’s one scene in particular where Gustave and Zero are chasing Willem Dafoe‘s character down a ski slope which makes no effort to look realistic and instead focuses on being a fun, surreal experience which it delivers on.
I really can’t find too much wrong with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yes, it’s definitely a Wes Anderson film and yes, if you don’t like the guy you won’t find much in here to change your mind. Still, it’s a beautifully made film with a powerhouse comedic performance by Ralph Fiennes that’s charming and funny in equal measures. I don’t really use the word “delightful” that often, but it seems like the perfect word to describe it. The film really is a genuine delight and I highly recommend it.
DVD/BD Release Date:
7th July 2014 (UK)
Tony Revolori, Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Saorise Ronan
Buy:The Grand Budapest Hotel [DVD]