Search Film Reviews

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Ralph Fiennes as "M. Gustave" and Tony Revolori as "Zero".Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight
2014, 99 minutes
Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence

Review by Joshua Handler

Wes Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a delightful film featuring a masterstroke of casting in the form of Ralph Fiennes.  The film tells the story of Gustave H. (Fiennes), a famous concierge, and his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), who work at The Grand Budapest Hotel, a luxury hotel in the fictional country of Zubrowka.  The film is set pre-WWII.

With Budapest, Anderson has nearly perfected his style.  The production design is flawless and even more artificial than usual, making everything feel like a dark storybook.  It's beautiful.  Yet, with the perfection of his style, Anderson forgets to give this film a beating heart.  While he cares about his characters and the characters are all incredibly odd and endearing, he pays more attention to his story (and this isn't necessarily detrimental, as explored later).

While the heart is missing, the characters, as mentioned are delightfully bizarre and brilliantly brought to life by some of the greatest talents in the world including Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, and Tony Revolori in a star-making performance.  Anyone who knows Anderson's films knows that he always manages to cast the best actors around.  Ralph Fiennes gives one of the best performances of his career as Gustave.  Gustave is suave, not always brilliant, but always one step ahead of danger.  Fiennes' comedic talents (who knew he had them?) are on full display here.  His timing is sharp and he nails every moment.  He elicited out of me the maximum amount of laughter possible.  Revolori holds his own against Fiennes.  Zero makes up for the brains that Gustave lacks.  Revolori gives a heartfelt and very sharp performance that will hopefully lead to many more great film roles for him.  Additionally, Willem Dafoe's small role as an assassin is not to be missed.

Most of all, though, The Grand Budapest Hotel is fun, yet substantial.  There are a multitude of sequences that are a blast to watch.  Anderson always manages to make his movies entertaining while saying something substantial.  With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson explores nostalgia for an era gone by, not unlike Woody Allen did in Midnight in Paris (though in a different manner).  As someone in the film says, Gustave was in his own world of yesteryear.  He was living in a world where everyone was polite and the hotel service was always impeccable.  Gustave was trying to preserve this world in the Grand Budapest Hotel, the only home and safe haven he had left in a world that was changing around him on the eve of World War II.  The hotel was a time capsule of sorts, providing people a final glimpse of a time that they will dream of but never life in again.  Gustave was trying to provide his clients with a final taste of happiness before an era of darkness.

Eras can provide homes for those that inhabit them.  There are people so in love with the era that made them, so much a fixture of that time, that with the smallest of changes to the world outside, the person could find the new world unlivable.  This movie is essentially about a man who couldn't adapt to a new way of life.

Overall, while not Anderson's best, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a delight and a film that I suspect will grow on me as I explore it further through repeated viewings.  This movie will not win Anderson any new fans, but should appeal to his already large fan base.  And frankly, Grand Budapest is worth viewing for Ralph Fiennes' performance alone.


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