The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Five Star Establishment of The Highest Order
It really is a divine pleasure to witness a delightfully enchanting film ,such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, that I fear I may fail to convey its charm for lack of words. Honestly I do hope I shant fail in my endeavor, however if I happen to slip into the pit of failure know that it was naught for lack of trying. Far be it from me to sing the praises of such a simple work such that you might believe it infallible, yet this one did strike rather close to the mark, if you don’t mind my saying.
As the film began, I was instantly struck with an inherent charm radiating from the screen. This is very likely due to Wes Anderson’s use of a multitude of mediums and dimensions in his production, all of which are telling of the style in which Anderson enjoys working. One that is familiar with the work of this same Mr. Anderson will, of course, understand my meaning. Visually speaking the film was much more dynamic than one would normally see. The use of lighting, for example, while at times subtle, was an active element in each scene, as though the light itself were a silent character one could not possibly ignore. So too was the use of color and architecture. The very buildings themselves lived on the screen before my eyes, silent sentinels opening and closing their doors as they open and close the scenes. Finally was the ever changing aspect ratio and framing used to visually distinguish various timeframes and settings throughout the film. I know what you might be thinking, this is not the distraction it sounds like it most certainly would be, it looks and feels very natural and I for one believe the idea borders on brilliance.
Now aside from simply being visually captivating The Grand Budapest Hotel is genuinely hilarious. Striking mirthful beats between visual clowning, delightfully contradictory dialogue, and delicious vulgarities, many of which, if you ask me appear to exist simply as the quickest route to the punch line. I do feel a good profanity when well placed and used just sounds more honest, and laughter flows freely in the face of honesty, and profanity.
The story of The Grant Budapest Hotel is told by the current owner of the Grand Budapest, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), to a young writer (Jude Law) over dinner. In this tale he recounts the exploits of one M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) the renowned concierge, and generally magnificent fellow, of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and his loyal Lobby Boy and dear friend, a young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). The story involves murder, the theft and recovery of a priceless painting and a battle for a family fortune. Beginning in 1932, during the final years in the glory of The Grand Budapest, Zero was hired as a lobby boy and became protégée to Gustave, the concierge. Gustave was particularly fond of courting a specific type of woman that frequented the hotel, elderly, lonely, insecure, wealthy, and blond. One such lady is Madame D (Tilda Swinton), who Gustave cared for a great deal, and she him in return. On the onset of the first Great War Madame D died. Feeling distressed for his dismissal of her concerns Gustave rushes to her estate, with is faithful companion Zero, to say his farewell, and to discover the contents of her will. She was, after all, fabulously wealthy. As it turns out she did, in a deathbed letter sent to her attorney Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), bequeathed him Boy With Apple, a valuable painting. This enrages her family, particularly her son, Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Adrien Brody), who lashes out at Gustave. In a fit of brazen assertiveness, Gustave, with the help of Zero, takes the painting. On the return trip to the Grand Budapest he makes a pact with Zero to sell the painting and retire to the Riviera, and so names Zero his heir. Shortly after returning to the Grand Budapest Inspector Henckles (Edward Norton) arrives to arrest Gustave who has been falsely accused of murdering Madame D. Having won the trust and affections of his fellow prisoners Gustave is enlisted by Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) to aid in an escape. Upon his escape he is once again reunited with Zero and they embark on a daring and dangerous journey to prove Gustave’s innocence while they are pursued by J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe), a cold-blooded assassin, and Inspector Henckles.
While there are countless performances worth mentioning, and lavishly praising, there are none more deserving than Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori. Now Feinnes should be no surprise, he is a very capable actor, what I would say is surprising is how he is able to project more charisma than should be humanly possible. Honestly he is genuinely inhumanly charismatic in this role, he was almost overwhelming. I will reserve my praise for Tony Revolori. A young, only 17 years old I believe, actor sharing his screen time with very large names and personalities not only held his ground, but performed admirably. The majority of his roles is that of the strait man to the large characters he much interact with. On the occasions his is the largest character in a scene he is still the strait man, but his larger personality does peek around the corners, revealing a young Gustave in the making.
I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention Wes Anderson and his achievements in writing, and direction. Honestly, I really couldn’t ask anyone to have done a better job. There were decisions made that perhaps I would have made differently. Nevertheless, to pursue perfection is to risk destroying what which is already very good, and I honestly don’t believe my decisions would be better than Mr. Anderson would. However, I simply can’t help but wonder what was left on the cutting room floor. The film itself is comparatively short, roughly 100 minutes, and I feel it could have, maybe even should have been longer. There were definitely enough characters deserving of more screen time, I would even wager there is more story to tell. Perhaps, my biggest complaint is that I enjoyed this film so much that I was very sad to see it end so quickly.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, 9 out of 10. I was unable to keep from smiling, laughing, and ultimately left the theatre feeling very good, and nostalgic for a world that no longer, or never did exist.