The Grand Budapest Hotel is a classic Wes Anderson quirky comedy. The movie is all Anderson-esque including the witty dry humor, the ornately visual setting, the impressive ensemble cast, the voice-over narration approach or the presentation of sub plots in the form of the chapters of a book. Here’s a savory you wouldn't regret watching!
The film is set at the Grand Budapest Hotel located in the (fictional) East European state of Zubrowka - a luxurious hotel managed by the concierge M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) who spearheads the hotel’s day to day activities with passion and an almost OCD like meticulousness along with his protégé Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), a newly recruited lobby boy.
The core plot revolves around Gustave being framed for the murder of one of the hotel’s eminent and elderly guests - Madame D (Tilda Swinton). The film spins around how Gustave - with help from Zero - attempts to prove himself innocent and battles Madame D’s money grubbing relatives.
Now before you look at this as a regular murder mystery, let’s remember it’s a Wes Anderson movie! It presents the cast, production, creativity and humour quotients in a fashion that Anderson is famous for.
Ralph Fiennes takes the cake as Gustave H (quite literally - as you will find in the movie - a pastry from Herr Mendll’s). To start with, you don't quite expect Ralph Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie. But he is and he has delivered with perfection a character so beautifully sketched out by Anderson - a concierge’s passion for service, of all kinds, to guests, his fuss about everything being perfect, his compassion for his sidekick, his ranting preachy sermons delivered even when he is hanging in the midst of life & death and his witty dry humour. You would at times want to stand up and clap!
Tony Revolori is a refreshing sight as the younger Zero Moustafa, with his loyalty to Gustave and love for the baker Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan). The ensemble cast is worth taking note of; most of them regulars in Wes Anderson movies. Tilda Swinton as Madame D has a brief but crucial role setting tone to the plot, Adrian Brody as Madame D’s greedy son Dmitri, Jeff Goldblum as Kovacs - the family attorney, Willem Dafoe as Dmitri’s henchman and Edward Norton as Inspector Henckles who scurries through the story with great comic timing. Of course cameos by Anderson regulars; Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are ever-so-delightful.
The movie has a brilliant visual setting that is once again trademark Anderson. (You will find similar visual settings in his earlier movies like The Royal Tenenbaums or Fantastic Mr Fox). Add to that the use of miniatures to depict the hotel, the hill or the funicular railway, without touching them up with visual effects, gives you a nostalgic old movie world charm.
Keep an eye out for interesting sets & shots like the use of pastel colours for the hotel set up or the grand atrium of hotel (apparently filmed at a German department store that had survived World War II) or the ‘Society of the Crossed Keys’ scene shown in an iris shot. The background score is very Russian and in many scenes the pace laden score sets the tone for a ‘what happens next’ murderous suspense.
Finally, the level of detailing of the humour and the comic timing in the movie is applaud worthy, be it in Gustave’s ranting sermons to his staff or in the way the Society of the Crossed Keys helps him or even in the depiction of Gustave’s intimacies with his guests, the movie has witty dry humour that not only entertains but also respects your IQ!
With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has made a fun (and funny) film with a murder mystery plot making it a story that everyone will love (whether you are a Wes Anderson fan or not).
Rating: 5 on 5
Based in Mumbai, Deepti is a travel writer and a content builder for various projects. As an avid movie-watcher, she believes film makers should respect the audiences’ intelligence and need for ‘real entertainment’. She also writes about her travels with her toddler on the blog - neverjetlagged.blogspot.com.