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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The Grand Budapest Hotel

TheGrandBudapestHotelDirector Wes Anderson returns with this star studded film about a famous European hotel.  An author (Tom Wilkinson) recites a story about the time his younger self (Jude Law) visited the, formerly exquisite, Grand Budapest Hotel, in the Republic of Zubrowka, and spoke with its current owner Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) about his history with the hotel. 

As a young man in the 1930s, Zero (Tony Revolori) was a young lobby boy under the tutelage of the hotel’s concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave is known for his “exceptional service” of the rich, elderly female patrons of the hotel, including the widow Madame D (Tilda Swinton).  When Madame D ends up dead under mysterious circumstances, Gustave finds himself framed for her murder and he and Zero sets out to clear Gustave’s name, with the help of Zero’s love interest Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

Similar to 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a large scale ensemble piece for Wes Anderson, featuring over a dozen actors.  While some, like Ralph Fiennes and newcomer Tony Revolori, are new to the world of Wes Anderson, there are also many Anderson alumni that show up, some of them for only one scene.  However, the film as a whole is based nearly entirely on the performance of Ralph Fiennes as the, somewhat flamboyant, womanizing concierge M. Gustave.  In fact, the performance is quite unlike anything the, usually straight-faced, Fiennes has done in the past.  Another standout is Tilda Swinton under layers of old age make-up as Madame D.  Even though Swinton’s role in the film is quite small, she does shine in the few minutes she is on screen.

An interesting aspect of the film is its layered flashbacks, which cross different time periods. The film starts off in the present day with a girl reading a book, which was written by Tom Wilkinson's character, who is seen narrating the story in the 1980s, which in turn is based on a story his younger self heard in the 1960s, about the glory days of the hotel in the 1930s.  Each of these different time periods are represented by different aspect ratios, with the main 1930s story being in a square 4:3 ratio, while the other time periods are in various sizes of widescreen.  It was definitely an interesting way for Anderson to shoot the film and the change from one to another was quite seamless.  In regards to the different narrators, while it is passable that Jude Law is the younger Tom Wilkinson, it does require a suspension to disbelief to pass Tony Revolori off as a younger F. Murray Abraham.  In fact, they look nothing alike.  However, since Revolori ends up being quite decent in his role, it is a nitpick that can be overlooked.

Like many of Wes Anderson’s films, The Grand Budapest Hotel can be best described as a quirky comedy.  However, more so than his previous films, there is a dark edge to this film.  Much of this darkness comes from Willem Dafoe as the brutish thug J.G. Jopling, who is often seen performing many darkly humorous acts of violence.  Also the humour as a whole was a bit cruder than usual for Wes Anderson, even though it fits within the story that is being told.

Overall, while I don’t know if these types of large-scale ensembles is going to be a regular thing for Wes Anderson, I have to say that I found The Grand Budapest Hotel to be an exquisite film with a standout performance by Ralph Fiennes.

 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).