A Wes Anderson movie is one fraught with many similarities yet served up with such whimsical flavour that it’s hard not to fall in love with. There’s the usual stable of actors, the long tracking shots, the impeccable symmetry to every frame and colours that seem to pop out of the screen. Add his eccentric brand of humour that somehow manages to create an intriguing cocktail mixing comic subtlety via simple expressions and background score with slapstick and you’d rarely be underwhelmed at an Anderson film. The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different and can easily be counted as one of his most accomplished works.
The narrative is distributed over four different eras. The opening scene features a young woman reading a book while standing before a statue of the author, which then cuts back to 80s featuring the author (Tom Wilkinson) narrating his tale of the time he spent at an old and decaying mountain side hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka during the 60s. This leads to another flashback featuring the even younger author (Jude Law) spending some downtime at the hotel which despite being past its former glory still holds much old world charm within its sprawling halls. Enamoured by the hotel’s mysterious yet enigmatic owner, Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham), he’s granted an audience, where over dinner, Zero recounts the tale of how he came to own the hotel.
The movie then jumps back to the 1930s when the hotel was at the height of its glory under the leadership of Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes). Mirroring the troubled political upheavals plaguing much of Europe during that era, the country of Zubrowka faces the same. Young Zero (Tony Revolori), a political refugee has just joined the hotel as a lobby boy who’s quickly taken under the wing of Gustave, teaching him the fine art of running a hotel. However things get hairy when one of Gustav’s much older lovers, a frequent guest to the hotel dies and he’s accused of the murder. There’s also the matter of a priceless painting she’s left behind to him which leaves her son, Dmitiri (Adrian Brody) quite upset, resorting to some unsavoury steps to eliminate Gustave. Gustave ends up in prison, from where he’s sprung by Zero and the two set off trying to locate a copy of the will that shall ensure legal protection. Along the way they have to dodge the police led by sympathetic, Inspector Henkels (Edward Norton) and a sadistic hit man, Jopling (Willem Dafoe).
The most startling ability of the film is the ability to present so many diverse characters within its sprawling narrative with just the right amount of screen time allotted to them. They never get in the way of the plot or nothing seems out of place. The romantic sub-plot between young Zero and a scarred baker girl played by the dainty Saoirse Ronan is sweet on its own but also manages to add enough heft to the overall plot and that emotional punch right at the end. The bonding between Gustave and the prison inmates or the scenes of the secret hotelier society communicating with each other are such a delight to behold. Even the attention to detail in the scenes like a lapel made of crossed keys for the secret society is astounding.
The cornerstone however is Gustave and his relationship with Zero. Ralph Fiennes creates such a convincing imitation of the perfect gentleman, that it’s easy to understand this man’s hold over the hotel and its staff. He’s cool, calm and composed under pressure, so in the few scenes when he does lose it, it creates an unexpected moment of utter comic gold. He towers over the rest of the cast despite their own individual brilliance.
The movie has it all, amazing performances, plenty of laugh-out-loud moments with a sharp wit about it, technical brilliance in every frame and soothing romanticism for nostalgia that it’s difficult not to be swept away by. A must watch on the big screen.view less