The year is 1932 in an alpine resort in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. A promising new lobby boy, Zero, (Tony Revolori) has been taken into the tutelage of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s dame-seducing concierge, Monsieur Gustave H. However, things take an unexpected turn when one of Gustave’s conquests turns up murdered and he becomes the prime suspect…
Wes Anderson is the marmite of the cinematic world: You either love him or you hate him. Here comes yet another offering from the maker of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and he is as quirky as ever.
There are few directors with such distinctive styles—both visually and tonally—so as to be immediately recognisable, and while he is oft ridiculed for this, it’s undeniable that he’s indeed a weaver of charming yarns.
It must be said, however, that it takes a certain sensibility to enjoy his films. With dry lines delivered at a breakneck pace, in Anderson’s languorous world a character need never take a beat to think about their response, it is always delivered calmly and perfectly formed. Anderson uses an elaborate framing device in-keeping with his tendency to prolong gags ad absurdum, a technique which will surely irritate some viewers.
Yet his virtuosity is undeniable: He handles tectonic shifts in tone with the deftness of storytelling maestro, surprising the audience without becoming jarring. Distaining the use of computer generated effects, Anderson’s picture has a distinct feeling of quaint artificiality. Anderson is meticulous in his craft, with the very colour palette of his films precisely constricted giving them an instantly identifiable quality.
As star-studded as you’d expect from the director, this picture boasts a truly enviable cast: Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, and Willem Dafoe, among others. The mere fact that Anderson commands the interest of so many stars on such a low budget is testament to his talent.
There is plenty of humour to be enjoyed here. European archetypes are played with, there are lookalikes of Kafka, Freud, even Count Dracula. Dark slapstick comes fast and shockingly, you don’t know whether to laugh or gasp. While the expert insertion of anachronisms also proves to be snort-inducing, such as Adrian Brody’s Dmitri delivering a threat to “nail your candy-ass.”
Yet throughout the farce, the presence of war lurks ominously and the audience is reminded that beneath the decadence of Gustave’s world lies an unstable foundation.
Ralph Fiennes dazzles here as a flamboyant lover of hospitality, giving a rare display of his superb comic timing which hasn’t been seen since In Bruges. The character of Gustave H. is a grandiloquent concierge with a wonderful propensity to wax lyrical on any subject; in a picture of understated performances his luminosity becomes magnified.
Some may find Anderson’s work might leave them cold, but there is much warmth to be enjoyed here, and Fienne’s Gustave is undeniably one of the best comic creations seen in recent years.