Monday, 17 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel (15) | Film Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel, dir/wr. Wes Anderson, st. Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness, st. Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson

A colourful, storybook aesthetic, an array of eccentric, dead-pan characters and a dark sense of humour are at the heart of all Wes Anderson’s films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. The famous Gustave H (Fiennes), concierge of a once magnificent, now decadent and decaying hotel somewhere in the snowy mountains of Wes’s Europe, is accused of murder and of course, chaos ensues. A painting is stolen, the Nazis are invading, and a family fortune is up for grabs. The new lobby boy - Zero (Tony Revolori) - becomes Gustave's protégé and best friend, and together they break out of prison and win back their beloved Grand Budapest.

This being a Wes Anderson movie, every shot is perfectly composed with meticulous detail that is indicative of the director's sheer passion and diligence. The mid-century brown and orange of the hotel lobby, the Cadbury purple of Gustave’s uniform, and the powder-blue Mendl’s patisserie boxes are charming little attentions to detail. The protagonist possesses the usual endearing cynicism, and the post-Soviet setting proves as enchanting a location as in any other Anderson film. As usual, I left the theatre feeling strangely melancholy, noticing how ugly the world around me has become as I make my way home, and, as usual, wishing that my whole life could be directed by Anderson’s superb imagination. 

However, even as a loyal fan of his work, I can’t escape the feeling that Grand Budapest is (dare I say it) a slight regurgitation of what has come before. The style, the nuances, the humour, are all brilliant in their own right, but if you’ve seen The Life Aquatic, Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums, you’ll see all of these tricks coming, and perhaps, as I did, start to grow tired of seeing the same old cast romping back and forth in colour-coordinated outfits, heads popping out of trap-doors and confused shoot-outs. I suppose when such a stylised, specific approach to film-making is adopted and receives a huge cult-following, it becomes difficult to move away from the predicted modus operandi, and perhaps this is why Grand Budapest seems slightly darker and more sombre than the others. Irrespective of Gustave’s adventures with Zero and his many high-society love affairs, he undoubtedly comes across as lonely, and some scenes are noticeably more explicit than Anderson’s other films have been. It could be that this is an indication of what’s to be expected from him in the future: something less playful and more serious, more satirical.

In spite of this, The Grand Budapest Hotel is still an immensely enjoyable film, regardless of whether you are a Wes Veteran or not. Full of energy, colour and warmth, it is the perfect antidote to the gloomy not-quite spring evenings, and its loveable characters will have you smiling to yourself long after the curtain falls.

Review by Bryony Dawson