After seeing Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom (twice in the cinema), I felt that nothing would ever top them, but I was wrong. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is, in the words of Monsieur Gustave H., just wonderful, darling.
It’s a mixed bag of genres tearing pages from romance, tragedy and comedy to create an elaborate hybrid that is as clever as it is ridiculous. The visuals are beautiful illustrations, the most memorable of which is the Grand Budapest itself as the very epitome of luxury. However, the pastel colours are slowly unpeeled as the plot thickens to reveal much darker shades of nostalgia, loneliness and corruption – as always with Anderson, the laughs are rimmed with sadness.
Without giving anything away, the film works as a continuous flashback, with the exception of one or two interruptions from the present, telling the tale of the hotel’s newest employee, lobby boy Zero. Under the close watch of the infamous concierge, Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) Zero learns about love, loss and above all, effective client handling. However, it is Fiennes who really captivates, shedding his typically villanic costume for that of a dandy. Gustave H. is more of an aristocrat than a servant, reminiscent of Oscar Wilde in his extravagance and effeminacy, striding through the hotel with perfect posture, sleeping with the guests and leaving behind the distinct smell of aseau de panache (his particular cologne).
Inviting though his ornate world is, the narrative soon rips him out of the golden microcosm and deposits him, along with the ever-willing Zero, into a world ridden with greed, deception and violence. In a desperate attempt to bring about justice and to honour the reputation of the sacred Grand Budapest, the two embark on a chaotic and intensely comedic journey to discover the final will of an elderly millionairess, one of Gustave’s blond haired, insecure mistresses. They are met along the way by the usual gang of odd, but endearing eccentrics and one or two knuckle-duster wearing thugs who violently assail anyone standing in the way. It is more graphic than many of Anderson’s previous films, but graphically humorous rather than replusive, even when a character’s (let’s leave him unnamed so as to keep the suspense) fingers are sliced off in a closed door.
I could go on writing about it for pages, but due to lack of time I’ll just say this if there’s one film you watch this March make it the Grand Budapest. It somehow manages to make you feel happy, plaintive and rather clever all at the same time. Oh, I do love Wes Anderson.
Click play to watch the trailer. Then go buy your cinema tickets, sharpish: