The Grand Budapest Hotel movie review

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Pointing out that Wes Anderson films are works of aesthetic beauty – rich, inventive and colourful, in the manner of strikingly detailed dioramas or wonderful hand-drawn pictures – is, eight features in, something bit of a no-brainer, like observing Martin Scorsese knows how to make good gangster movies or Sergio Leone had a thing for westerns.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), especially dowsed in Anderson’s arty handmade-like oeuvre, represented a high water mark: the quality of the 44-year-old auteur’s scripts would naturally vary but the look and feel of them would remain at more or less the same level.

So it is entirely expected that his latest — and in many respects his greatest — film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, looks scrumptiously well designed. If Anderson wasn’t regarded as one of American cinema’s most obsessive stylists, he is (or should be) now. The big surprise is how well that dioramic look — decked out with a sense of layers, levels, boxes, compartments, cut-outs — fits with the broader package. Not just the eponymous central location, a wide and lovingly stylised spatial playground, but a wonderfully screwy bits-and-piecey screenplay that delights and amuses as much as the film’s kooky surface values.

A bizarre number of walk-on narrators gives the film a quasi historical bent. When it settles down we follow a tale set in the 1930s about a flamboyant hotel concierge, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), his new lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) and their run-ins with the law. An 84-year-old lady Gustave sleeps with (“I’ve had older”) passes away, leaving him an invaluable painting. The resulting mayhem — involving prisons, escapes, action set pieces and the grisly work of a violent goon (Willem Dafoe) covering up tracks and carving up bodies — are consequences of her jealous family.

This is a Wes Anderson film, so a smattering of familiar faces provide a conga line of small roles (including Jason Schartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton and Saoirse Ronan). The chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and newcomer Tony Revolori, who drifts through the running time folding surprise, naivety, bemusement and vulnerability into a laconic bug-eyed performance, is what keeps the heart and soul of it ticking over.

Playing way against type, Ralph Fiennes is nothing short of a comedic revelation as Gustave. He provides such a deliriously irresistible presence, with such expert and seemingly effortless comedic timing, one can’t help but wonder whether all those dramas and serious films were the best investment of his time.

And while The Grand Budapest Hotel is delightfully good fun, it’s the moments of pathos and black humour that reveal the scope of its achievements. Several characters die, and while their deaths are handled flippantly (including the sudden demise of a very unlucky cat) their stories are not. The dynastic-like attitude of the narrators keeps even the smaller characters important parts of a large, and deeply exquisite, tapestry.

22 responses to “The Grand Budapest Hotel movie review

  1. Absolutely loved it! Humorous, witty, ironic , clever and of course very ‘tongue in cheek’ at times. I find it quite sad that people who must only like very up front, obvious and straight story line films bother to go and then write reviews about how they disliked it – obviously not their type of film, they just wouldn’t see how clever it is. And Ralph Fiennes was excellent in unusual role for him and he seemed to really relish being part of it.

  2. Worst piece of pretentious rubbish I have seen in a long time. I felt sorry for Fiennes, having to work with such a forced script, and a direction completely devoid of comedic timing. He seemed to be suffering all the way through. The only actors that seemed comfortable in their roles were Jude Law and F Murray Abraham during the intro and ending; those were actually the only believable parts and thus the more interesting. The fact that the movie was littered with famous actors did nothing to improve it. It would have worked better with more unknown actors as one’s attention would have been drawn away from the fact that it should be enjoyable just because the actors were famous. I refuse to buy into this kind of selling point. No matter how good an actor is, the characters were too ridiculous and short-lived for anyone to pull off with any credibility. The more sublime messages in the movie were simply drowned in all the exaggerated character developments and the actor’s struggles to make the dialogues work during the broken up style of direction which served to have me detach more from the story than engage in it. I just wanted it to end…it was embarrassing to watch.

  3. The movie was stupid and a total waste of time. I kept waiting for it to get to the point, never arrived there. I left feeling like I wasted my time completely.

  4. Very unamerican in its intentions, so an excellent film. I have a friend who gets ill if anyone mentions a film described as ‘sumptuous’ and this would probably get him to Emergency.

    I’m going to watch it again, and seek out a few of Wes Anderson’s other films.

    1. I agree with you! My husband and I were going to leave half way through but hoped something of interest would happen. We felt it was a big waste of time and money. The promoters must have been paid well to say anything good about it. We did not laugh once and did not get it at all. Bad movie….waste of an evening!

  5. As someone not called Susan, I loved it. I did laugh out loud a lot and loved the many small visual puns, that often came and went before most people got them. Brilliant!

  6. A hoot – very clever, thoughtful and humane. Visually stunning. Lots of allusions to ‘old movies’ and a delightful addition at the end of the credits. I laughed out loud! So I’d recommend you don’t leave as soon as the credits start to roll. As an aside I think it’s incredibly rude and thoughtless for so many people to stand up and walk out as soon as the credit start. Firstly, how about recognising the work of the people who made the movie? Plus when some of us who prefer to stay in out seats and watch the credits have people trampling over you and expecting you to get up so that they can get out is incredibly annoying! That’s my complaint – but others may differ … just as Vivien and AnotherSusan are entitled to have been disappointed. We’re a pluralist society after all ….

  7. I loved it. 90 minutes of sheer escapism, completely wacky, not exactly laugh out loud, but lots of smiles and nudges between those of us in the audience.

  8. A magic piece of filmmaking . Superb performances led by Ralph Fiennes, one of a small number of actors who can handle sophisticated and delicately phrased and embroidered dialogue seamlessly. Production design both delicious and beautiful. Wes Anderson’s direction wonderfully detailed, embracing both dark humour and optimism coupled with a warning to us all. I wanted to go straight back in and see it again.

  9. Agree with Vivien…boring, pointless waste of 90 minutes or so that I will never get back! Stupid film, stupid ending…totally meaningless.

  10. I thought it was one of the most entrancing movies I’ve ever seen. Visually exquisite, superb script and great actors all combined to make a movie that was satisfying on every level.

    1. Great Actors, wonderful costumes but no character development and a unrealistic plot. I feel short changed after seeing it. It could have been so much better. Rather a childish film I feel.

    1. i’m with you, viv. my wife and I turned it off mid-way through.
      anderson made a droll, dry, aesthetically tasteful and utterly moronic movie this go-around.

    2. The movie is a waste of time..while it is visually appealing you cannot recollect it a few hours later since it is so disinteresting. Basically you will not miss anything if you don’t watch it.
      Academy awards tend to go to the most boring or complicated movies.

      Ralph Fiennes acts the same in all his movies, it would have been a tad better with someone like Colin Firth or Michael Caine

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