The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest spectacular offering from cinema’s most symmetrical director, Wes Anderson. Best known for crafting the critically acclaimed Fantastic Mr Fox and The Royal Tennenbaums, Anderson really pulls it out the bag with The Grand Budapest Hotel, with the help of a perfect cast consisting of (deep breath) Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Adrian Brody. If you could direct dreams, I would want Wes Anderson directing mine and filling them with an inspirational cast because The Grand Budapest Hotel feels like a dream, it transports you, sucks you in, fills your imagination with delights and throws remarkable aesthetics at your unexpecting eyes all while whisking you away in an unbelievable yet totally plausible story.
The story is thus. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a ski resort in the fictional republic of Zubrowka. Jude Law, a young writer, visits the hotel in search of its elusive owner, Mr Mustafa to hear his story on how he came to own the hotel, which is now well past its best and a little on the depressing side. The décor looked like it hadn’t been touched since the 1970’s and anything that might suggest the concept that it was ‘Grand’ was entirely lost among the amber coloured lighting and brown carpets. They sit down to dinner and Mr Mustafa unfolds his story to the young writer and transports us back to a time when the hotel was a luxurious, enviable and magnificent resort which was the destination of choice among the wealthy visitors to Zubrowka. It looked like a cake, a great big pink cake with elaborate white icing and in typical Wes Anderson style, every detail was intricately crafted. Monsieur Gustav (Fiennes), the hotels concierge is appointed a new lobby boy, Zero (Revolori) a small, young boy with a drawn on moustache and eagerness that only comes from someone so desperate to succeed. One of the hotels oldest, richest and dearest guests played magnificently by Tilda Swinton, is murdered and she leaves her priceless painting ‘Boy with Apple’ to Mr Gustav in her will, much to the dismay of Dimitri (Brody) her crazy haired son, who is convinced Mr Gustav played a part in her death so he could have the painting. Monsieur Gustav and Zero end up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Dimitiri, a blood thirsty assassin Jopling (Dafoe) and Deputy Kovacs (Goldblum) who are all desperate to uncover the truth. With a little help from the daughter of the towns best baker, Serge X and the Society of the Cross Keys, Gustav and Zero must fight to clear their name and their right to keep the painting as their own, prevent their beloved hotel from being turned into an Army barracks and attempting to stay alive. Phew!
The story is told through three different eras of the Grand Budapest Hotel. The present day, where a young girl is reading about Monsieur Gustav in front of a statue, 1985 where the young author, as an old man, is writing his memoirs, particularly of his time at The Grand Budapest Hotel, 1968 where the young author first visits the hotel to talk to Mr Mustafa and 1932 when the hotel was in its heyday.
As with all Wes Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel is incredibly stylized, with set pieces that look like they are from a lavish theatre production and a convoluted, easy to follow and at times subtly hilarious story you are drawn in from the start. Fiennes is perfect as Monsieur Gustav, he plays the character with a certain campness that comes from someone who takes such pride in his work, he womanises the elderly guests, particularly the blondes and conducts the hotel staff like an orchestra. Tony Revolori, who plays Lobby Boy Zero is also very promising as a new actor entering the circuit. His big eyes project his innocence and his wonky, drawn on moustache has a certain charm about it. The rest of the cast, most of whom play supporting characters, are fantastic contributions, especially those who make up the Society of the Cross Keys, the list of cameos is endless. A personal favourite, however, was definitely Harvey Keitel as Ludwig, a prison inmate who is bald, topless and covered in rubbish tattoos who orchestrates a mad prison break which would be worthy of any slapstick comedy.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is pure entertainment from start to finish, it is very typically Wes Anderson, in fact he has gone overboard on the Wes Anderson-ness of the whole film, its extravagant, decadent and over flowing with kooks, quirks and charms. With rave reviews from across the board, it is well worth a watch. Marvel in its beauty, get sucked in to its story and surrender to Mr Gustav’s charms, you won’t regret it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel premiers on HBO on December 27th at 8pm.