Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Film Review- The Grand Budapest Hotel

A Wes Anderson film has certain expected core elements. An abundance of primary colours especially yellow, scenes that are framed almost picture like many featuring multiple characters with minimal movement. Geometrical structures of the sets, rectangles, squares and linear elements giving a sense of miniaturist come to life. Actors that are very staccato in their movements a kin to marionettes without the strings and the usual cast of players starting with Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray that always turn up at some point during the film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has all of the elements and more dotted throughout the production. The opening sequence is a four layer plot within a plot very similar to opening a series of Russian dolls until you hit the essence of the story.

The narrative starts in modern day Zubrowka a fictional Eastern European location that was the centre of an Empire before being ravaged first by fascism in the 30's then communism in the years after the war. A young girl approaches the statute of a revered writer and native son, next we flip back to that writer in 1985 recounting his earlier self in 1968 hearing the story of how the Hotel came into the possession of the owner at the time Mr. Moustafa (F Murray Abraham).  Here we go back to the last layer set in 1932 where the bulk of the story takes place we meet the younger Moustafa, Zero (Toni Revolori) and his mentor, teacher and confidant  M. Gustav (Ralph Fiennes).

Now at the centre of the production the elements of a classic 1930's whodunit begin. M. Gustave  wildly regarded as the best concierge among his peers at the modern palatial hotels of the day provides excellent attention to his guests especially the older widowers who's families are essentially waiting for them to die and reap the rewards of a vast old world estates. One of these devotees Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) dies, leaves a priceless piece of art to Gustave that begins a series of confrontation between Gustave, the widow's main heir her son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) and his muscle Jopling (Willem Defoe) in a battle over the piece and the dying last wishes of the Dowager.

Writer Anderson (influenced by Stefan Zweig) lays out and adventure throughout many elevated settings in his fantastical Eastern European world.  One passage where M. Gustave and Zero go to the peaks of the continent to meet a contact that could help their case is amplified by cable cars, directions from hooded monks and snow tipped surroundings. Another is a cat and mouse game in the hotel when Gustave returns from exile with Zero helped by Zero's pastry magician wife Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) on point for the insertion. The third is the call to action of a brotherhood of concierges to aid one of their kind in need. A well done sequence including many an Anderson regulars often in the middle of a task as they spring into action employing their own particular lobby boy to take over as they exit the scene.

Ralph Fiennes is the central figure in the production. His character M. Gustave sets the tone for the lavash world of inter war Eastern Europe. Gustave has to adapt to many different situations and scenarios all hit well by Fiennes. Toni Revolori handles the major role of the naive lobby boy Zero  apprentice to M. Gustave well. He grows as the film progresses, gains in confidence and stature  particularly in one scene where he scolds his temporary replacement upon returning to the hotel for giving out private personal information.  Saoirse Ronan is very strong is a small role as Zero's wife Agatha. Fiercely loyal and honest she will not compromise the values she holds closest for the duo. Adrien Brody and Willem Defoe are both solid as the villains of the piece Dmitri and Jopling. Defoe especially shines as he tracks down the pair while imaginatively eliminating obstacles that block Dimitri from the fortune of his mother's estate.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is another trip into Wes Anderson cinematic world. However this time there are deeper layers to peel back but the familiar slow build leading to a fantastical and frantic third act still remain. If you are a lover of the Auteur then this piece is perfectly wrapped as one of Agatha's pastries. But a slight tug is somewhere in the background hoping that for his next project Anderson will pull this world apart and venture outside of his comfort zone.

** 1/2  Out of 4.

The Grand Budapest Hotel | Wes Anderson | USA / Germany /UK | 2014 | 100 Minutes.

Tags: Hotel , Concierge, 1930's , Author, Fascism, Communism, Pastries, Inheritance , Art

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