Snow-covered landscapes, dead dowagers, daring prison breaks, and bloody shootouts are all on full display in Wes Anderson’s zany new (and occasionally quite funny) The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Ralph Fiennes stars as Monsieur Gustave, the haughty concierge of the aforementioned establishment, which – with its magnificent exterior, huge lobby, sweeping staircases and football-field-length hallways – is one of the most palatial in all of Europe. Gustave is a bit of a con man: when he isn’t greeting his wealthy guests, he’s suavely seducing the easily-flattered dowagers who come seeking accommodations, hoping to worm his way into their wills. Sure enough, not long after the movie begins, one of them dies, and Gustave – accompanied by his lobby boy and sidekick, Zero – hightails it out to the old lady’s estate, where he learns that she has bequeathed to him a priceless painting. He returns it to the hotel for safekeeping, is framed for her murder, narrowly escapes from prison, and…that’s not even the half of it.
Fiennes is excellent, a master of the deadpan delivery so common in Anderson’s films. Everyone performs – very effectively, too – in the same laconic, low-key style: from Tony Revolori as the wide-eyed Zero Moustafa, to Saoirse Ronan as his girl, Agatha, to F. Murray Abraham as the haunted, soft-spoken “old” Moustafa (who, in a kind of framing device, is telling the whole wacky story years later to a curious writer over dinner one night).
It is–and this is typical of Anderson – the look of the film that’s important. The composition of each scene, each frame, each lovingly-crafted, densely-detailed backdrop are what Anderson really cares about. (One thing’s for sure: many more shots of the hotel’s breathtaking interior, and I would have been tempted to hop a plane, trudge through the snow, and book a room at the place myself. What a vacation that would be! And what a view!)
Bottom line: if you like movies that appeal to the eye and not the emotions, The Grand Budapest Hotel is for you.
If, however, you prefer well-rounded characters you can relate to, and not cardboard cut-outs – if you’d rather watch (and maybe even shed a tear for) real, live human beings – you might be better off checking in elsewhere.
(Clearly, the Academy disagrees. The Grand Budapest Hotel is up for a number of Oscars, including Best Picture.)
FILM REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien