Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Adrien Brody
Wes Anderson keeps up with his reputation of putting quaint characters with bizarre quirks in a setting both grand and archaic to carry forward a story that is in equal parts strange and charming. That has always been his style of narrative and on most occasions he's been spot-on in delivering what his increasing fan following expects of him.
Employing a Russian doll technique of a story in a story, Anderson begins the tale in a book being read by a young girl. The girl is reading a chapter by Tom Wilkinson who narrates a story of the 1960s when he went to stay at the Grand Budapest Hotel. The hotel is a poorly maintained reflection of its once glorious past. The Wilkinson of the 60s played by Jude Law, encounters the owner of the hotel Zero Moustafa (Abraham) who tells him the story of how he got about inheriting the property from Monsieur Gustave.
Throughout the movie, one gets points of view from both Wilkinson (young and old) and Mustafa about the events that led to the inheritance and why, despite the hotel being a far cry from its magnificent past, it holds importance in Mustafa's life.
M. Gustave (played most elegantly by the hugely talented Ralph Fiennes) is a passionate concierge in a hotel whose owner nobody knows. With his eye for finesse and grandeur, Gustave's personality attracts wealthy clients from all around, particularly single, ageing rich women. One of his liaisons with a woman called Madame D., inadvertently drags Gustave into a messy inheritance battle over a prized Renaissance painting. How Gustave wriggles out of the confusion forms the crux of the story.
Running parallel to this plot is Gustave's growing fondness for young Zero and how he takes him under his wings personally and professionally.
As is the case with most Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel too sees many cameos by actors that have come to be recognised as members of his academy. So there's Edward Norton as "good" Fascist cop, Tilda Swinton in a brilliant cameo as Madame D, Adrien Brody as her son Dmitri, Harvey Keitel as a prison inmate, William Defoe as a contract killer, Jeff Goldblum as a lawyer, Bill Murray as another concierge, Owen Wilson as a front desk manager among others.
Fiennes excels as Gustave in his portrayal of a concierge with impeccable manners and a penchant for L'Air de Panache. He has the best lines and a character arc ranging from avuncular to elegant. The film rests on his shoulders and Law's narration to piece together several random characters and sub plots. For all his promiscuity and commitment to the betterment of the hotel, there's a childish glee to his approach towards life that makes him doubly endearing.
Tony Revolori as young Zero is cute, not as a puppy or something, but in a bumbling inexperienced way. Ed Norton looks like he's continuing his boyscout role from Moonrise Kingdom and stands out in the few scenes that he has. Tilda Swinton is so outstanding you can barely recognise her in the film. Brody plays the role of the greedy Dmitri with much conviction.
Anderson has used a fine mix of vintage filters and cardboard cutouts to enhance the grand appeal of Gustave's story while sticking to more time appropriate colour palettes for the present. The film continues with his brand of filmmaking and borders on the bizarre for those not familiar with his work. Upbeat and eclectic background score (think Darjeeling Limited) with short yet effective performances by an enviable dramatis personae means The Grand Budapest Hotel is everything that an Anderson fan expects of his film.
The humour is deadpan, the lines crisp, the characters are random and together they make it work in a very refreshing fashion. Anderson deserves full credit for being true to his oeuvre, and giving the audience what they expect of him. You must watch this movie for both Fiennes and Anderson, and for a lesson in the film watching experience itself. It doesn't pander to audience whims but instead is an honest attempt at being bizarre. And you what? It works.
Watch the trailer here:...