The latest offering from Wes Anderson is a colourful, whimsical and wonderful foray into a magical and comical new world.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful place to visit. Set in the fictional pre-war central European Republic of Zubrowka the director and his colossal cast create a cinematic Disneyesque vision. The set is spectacular – it looks like a set and intentionally so. The hotel in question is a majestic pink palace with purple uniformed staff, outside it’s a white winter wonderland. Accordingly the ‘baddies’ of the world wear grey and black uniforms and accessorise with grim expressions.
Wes Anderson is a director with a trademark – one that he stamps all over his work: nostalgic plots, thematic colours, abundant uniforms, futura fonts, specific zooms, colossal celebrity casts… Anderson’s list of calling cards goes on. The cast of Hotel goes on a bit too, including (draw breath) Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Jude Law, F Murray Abrahams, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray, of course.
Hotel finds Fiennes – whose rolecall includes some serious performances in The English Patient, The Constant Gardener, The Reader – as you’ve never seen him before. He’s camp, comic, heroic and completely plausible. The celebrity cameos are many but don’t feel forced.
There’s a story nestled within a story, within a story. A girl finds a memoir, a memoir written by a traveller (Law) who discovered The Grand Budapest Hotel well after its glory days. He meets the owner of the establishment, the older Zero (Abrahams) who tells him how he came to own the hotel.
Rewind to the 1930s. Gustave (Fiennes) plays the hotel’s concierge and mentor to the lobby boy, young Zero (Revolori). Gustave runs an impressive establishment – charming and bedding his elderly and wealthy clientèle. He’s not a typical player and genuinely feels for aging lovers:”I go to bed with all my friends,” he admits. Madame D (Swinton) is one of Gustave’s favourite ladies, who upon her death (by mysterious circumstances) bequeaths him the priceless painting ‘Boy with Apple‘. Unsurprisingly he’s then framed for her murder. A not quite classic whodunnit ensues as Gustave and Zero go on the run from the law and Madame D’s enraged son Dmitri (Brody).
Anderson treats his audience to a great escape, a secret society and reimagined clichés of both a cliff hanging and balcony hanging scene. The plot thickens as they say, (“Why, by the way? Is it a soup metaphor?”) and catapults quickly and seamlessly throughout Zubrowka’s wonderful world to a tidy conclusion. It would be unfair to give more away.
Hotel is an endearing film, captivating, charming and punctuated by moments of laugh-out-loud humour. It goes on a tour of total diversion, transporting viewers to a place that is energetic, eccentric and elegant
The Grand Budapest Hotel is showing at selected cinemas nationwide.
Lead image © 2013 – Fox Searchlight