Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Occasion: Ladies’ Night Out
Anticipation: Medium (I come and go with Wes Anderson movies)
Perched gloriously atop mountain peaks in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the primary setting of a fanciful tale of a young boy, Zero (Revolori) and his mentor and friend, Gustave (Fiennes). Framed for a murder he did not commit, Gustave is forced to run from the law until he can prove his innocence and meets plenty of weird and wonderful characters along the way. However this is a story within a story: narrated by an author who meets Zero many years later, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an unexpected tale of nostalgia for happier days.
While set in a fictional country, the film mirrors two notable eras for Europe. During the 1930s, when Zero was still a boy, the hotel resembles an intricately iced cake, a luxury retreat for the wealthy. However signs of approaching war are everywhere and Zero suffers abuse at the hands of black trenchcoat wearing soldiers, due to his foreign appearance and lack of travel papers. The allusion to the Third Reich is made clear when the hotel plays host to a massive military contingent and is decorated with flags and symbols foreign to the viewer, yet unnervingly familiar. By the 1960s, Zubrowka has become a Communist state and the hotel has lost its old glamour, with insipid and run-down decor and few patrons.
It is always brilliant to see Willem Dafoe play an over-the-top henchman and I loved watching Adrien Brody as the dark and thoroughly threatening villain, the kind of character he so rarely gets to play, and yet executes perfectly. All actors retain their native accents, which enables the viewer to imagine the film could be set anywhere and oddly makes their interactions feel less contrived.
The Grand Budapest Hotel exhibits all the hallmarks of Wes Anderson’s trademark style: sugar-sweet colour pallets, caricature-like characters, fanciful narrative twists and a touch of sadness. Zero’s incredible losses all happen off camera; they are a footnote to a caper story, the foundations of a whimsical fantasy. I was haunted by his story and the mournful smile of older Zero, now portrayed by F. Murray Abraham.
Anderson is a visualizer of extraordinary and over-the-top tales of make-believe and The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of his finest.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton