Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson, 2014) – Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, goes on an adventure with Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

Verdict

The most singular and bracing adventure, The Grand Budapest Hotel deserves to linger like strong-scented perfume.

5/5

Review

Every building has a story. The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different. Those adventures behind its soft pink walls may have been forgotten, if the Author had not met Zero Moustafa by virtue of his congenital curiosity.

It is there in Zero’s memory as a young lobby boy (newcomer Tony Revolori) that we meet the famed concierge Mr Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a man of unmatched genteel nature and incidentally a great lust spurred by odd taste. The unlikely pair becomes fast friends in their tangled path to unriddle a murder mystery.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Movember.

Told by Moustafa and retold by the Author – the layered Russian nesting doll of an introduction is a clever device that both deeply immerses the audience in poignant nostalgia, and presents some unreliable narrators behind its mild hint of fib.

Ebbing and flowing between the real and surreal is writer-director Wes Anderson on his first solo screenplay. Though he admits drawing inspiration from writer Stefan Zweig for the underlying memoir, the raconteur’s idiosyncratic visions once again paint an extraordinary universe that is emphatically his own.

Through his lens, the backdrop of war has never been quite as quixotic. The dark humour and uncharacteristic intemperate violence may stand out as different strokes from his earlier works, but he retains his usual hint of whimsy in every detail.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
“What’s in the box? What’s in the cussin’ box?!”

Pastel palettes, peculiar props, miniature models and almost tangible sentimentality – it is a world that stands quaint and bright by design. In fact, it is almost too light and vivid for its bleak, sombre subjects of murder and war.

How admirable that his stylised fantasy filter never once adulterate the unsmiling nature of its historical milieu. Never has a film set between the wars been so utterly extraordinary in its visuals and outlandish in its laughs, yet grounded in its telling. Self-awareness of its absurdity keeps it from meandering past the heart of the story – the characters.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Still
“Hold onto your hats.”

Bringing them to life is an eclectic band of actors with tremendous talent. The cast includes Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, and Tilda Swinton (pictured above) in that order of recognisability under fashion and cosmetics.

Far from farce, their larger-than-life portrayals instead offer a unique lens through which humanity is magnified. There is a profundity in the dialogue that exposes the psychological workings of the eccentric characters, who are often as inwardly tragic as they are outwardly comic.

As with all guests at Wes Anderson’s mind lobby, they begin alone. With time, they cross paths with the unexpected visitors, who conceives a wondrous purpose that complete their journeys. Through that beautifully crafted affinity, we get to explore one of Anderson’s most affectingly genuine stories about friendship, relationships and kinship that need not find their bond in blood.

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9 thoughts on “Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

  1. 5/5 on The Ü? That’s impressive.

    In intend to add this to my collection, but I do catch flak from my friends when I tell them I’ve been bored with Wes Anderson for the last couple movies.

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    1. Ah, you’re not the only one. Wes Anderson’s movies tend to be polarising – they either charm with its novelty, or tire with its purposive design. I lean towards the former. It’s a refreshing break from the repetitive trash that Hollywood mechanically churns out, ha!

      Hopefully this will change your mind, and it just might. I find this narrative a lot more dynamic and energetic than his usual works.

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      1. I hope so too. I mean, I LIKE Wes Anderson. I just felt that after Tenenbaums, his films lacked cohesiveness and characters that I cared about. Steve Zissou was a cool movie, but I didn’t give a crap about him.

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        1. You have a point. His recent films do feel a little more emotionally distant than Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums, which were brilliant films with great heart and fantastic characters. Come to think about it, perhaps he needs Owen Wilson back in the writers’ room with him…

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