Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abrahams, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori
Written by: Wes Anderson, (story) Hugo Guinness and (inspired by the works of) Stefan Zweig
Running Time: 99 mins
Release date: 7th March 2014
If you were to show any two-minute sequence from any of Wes Anderson’s films without saying a word as to who directed it, you would instantly know it was a Wes Anderson movie. He has a unique style, a unique eye and a unique quirkiness that no other director has. His latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is possibly his most Anderson-esque film to date, a crazy, bizarre, star-studded romp that is a wild mix of live action cartoon and picturesque piece of art.
Mr Moustafa, an aging millionaire and owner of the now empty Grand Budapest Hotel, recounts his life to a young author. He tells of the days between the wars when the hotel was a vibrant place run by concierge par-excellent, Gustave H. A man who lived to serve and served the elder female clients with a little more than room service. One such ladies, Madame D., is murdered and leaves her priceless painting “Boy with apple” to the concierge. Furious by the decision, her son, Dmitri, is determined to dismiss the will and has Gustave arrested for murder. And so begins a crazy adventure, with lobby boy Zero Moustafa at his side, as they try to clear his name.
In the hands of most directors, this would be a muddled mess, desperately juggling the farcical story with a cast that would possibly play off each other just to steal their scene. Anderson is a director who seems to have total control, over the substance, the style and the big names that litter his production. There is a great deal of respect of the man and it really shows here.
Taking his own script, each frame, each second of film, is meticulously staged. His personal style being centralisation. The main action stays in the centre of the screen, unless there’s a gag that is played to the side (and there are several of those). Each movement is important to that premise, even down to the placing of boxes (just watch the delivery of cakes and where they are placed). The camera movements are also just as important and they create mini pieces of art. The hotel, looking like some deliciously creaming, colourful cake, has everything in the right place, from signs to chairs and tables, even the carpeting. Even if you can’t follow the complex nonsense of the story, you have a feast for your eyes.
The story, however, is hilarious, with Anderson use of language really working well. The film is full of shocks, thrills and some wonderful sight gags. The prison break is brilliantly staged and shows Anderson’s use of the centre of the screen to its full potential. It is certainly Anderson’s most wackiest film to date and a million miles away from the subtle delights of his previous film, Moonrise Kingdom.
If you wanted to play a game of whose who, this is the film to watch. Anyone of any importance in Hollywood is here, whether in a meaty lead (great to see Adrien Brody on fine form as the villainous Dmitri, instead of wasting away in DTV rubbish) or in brief cameos (regular Anderson stars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson pop up). Willem Dafoe is very funny as mindless killing machine, Jopling as is Jeff Goldblum as the lawyer.
Managing to hold his own among the big boys is Tony Revolori as Zero, with a monotone delivery, he is the perfect stooge to Ralph Feinnes pitch perfect Gustave H. Not known for his comedic side, this is a fast and furious performance that has everything, from the speedy delivery to the mannerisms and subtle looks. Feinnes has always been a fine actor and now he can be called a fine comedic actor too. He is a revelation.
Some do find Wes Anderson’s films a little too pretentious and too exacting but I love his style, his humour and his preciseness. He is a special and fresh voice in cinema and while The Grand Budapest Hotel may not his be his best film (I still favour Moonrise Kingdom), it is, by far one of the most unusual comedies out there and I cannot recommend it more. If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film before, do yourself a favour and get acquainted with this. You won’t regret it. Like a deliciously decorated cake, it is full of rich layers and I loved it.