Copyright © 2014 by Fox Searchlight Pictures
In the Republic of Zubrowka, the Grand Budapest Hotel is frequented by the elite and at their beck and call is Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a senior and loyal concierge who doubles as an escort for the affluent but insecure female lodgers. When one of them ends up dead, he becomes the prime suspect and jailed for her murder. Along with his trusted lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), he escapes from incarceration to prove his innocence.
If ever there is a word to describe a Wes Anderson picture, I think surreal would be it. Comparatively offbeat with the likes of ‘Amélie’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Burn After Reading’, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is archetypally Anderson but distances itself from his earlier ensemble pieces (‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’) through political unrest portending an austere end amid a homicidal pursuit in as well as out of prison.
Dominating in the BAFTA and Oscar nominations, it is not hard to see why Anderson’s latest is a mighty contender for the top honour. A multiple award winner and critic-approved lensing a 1930s-themed crime caper replete with characters as brightly hued as the hotel itself without depriving any of the Andersonian facetiousness looks like a lock for the ‘Best Original Screenplay’ at the very least. In lesser hands, I would have balked at the idea of it even working.
Gratefully, it does. The cinematography from Robert Yeoman is exquisite and adds an air of mysticism to the location’s divinity. None of the scenes feel extraneous, the costumes glow (the staff’s purple uniform in particular) and the production design is simply brimming with authenticity. Pulsating the movie into five lively segments which do not peter out anywhere in its economical running time is the large company of actors collectively enriching Anderson’s imagination.
Like a reunion of sorts, identifiable faces from the director’s prior works pop up the screen and are distinct enough for their minute appearances (Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel and a completely transformed Tilda Swinton are prominently delightful as a vengeful son, shirtless inmate and wealthy elderly respectively) but ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ owes its sterling reputation mainly to Fiennes’ cultured and poetic metrosexual.
Better known for dramatic parts, he is a riot as the perfume-spraying and poem-reciting concierge with an affinity for the pleasures of his older female guests. A validation of such intensity can be seen from ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘The English Patient’, ‘The Constant Gardener’, ‘Skyfall’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ series that we forget how waggishly adept he is in something lighter yet insightful. Still, the duo would not be whole without Revolori’s ethereal participation.
For a newcomer, this 18-year-old displays maturity beyond his years and his subtlety is gratifying throughout the course of frenzied and perilous high jinks. He grows up to be F. Murray Abraham from ‘Amadeus’; though outwardly different, both men capture Moustafa’s sadness and pain of loss in unison. A loss indeed if you did miss the chance of a firsthand stay in an establishment every bit as heavenly as Herr Mendl’s prized courtesan au chocolat.
Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence