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Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel
THERE are few truly original voices in modern English-language cinema: the films of the Coen brothers are a blessing; Charlie Kaufman is an enigmatic delight; Quentin Tarantino may have lost some edge, but his movies still surprise and entertain in a way only Quentin Tarantino movies can. And then there's Wes Anderson.
His latest offering is The Grand Budapest Hotel, a 1930s-set caper which tells the story of devoted concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who, along with lobby boy Zero Moustafa (newcomer Tony Revolori), becomes embroiled in inheritance tussles and a murder investigation after the death of his 84-year-old benefactor and lover ("I've had older", he quips at one point), Madame D (Tilda Swinton).
It is testament to Anderson's talents that he has assembled a hugely impressive supporting cast: Tom Wilkinson, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody and Harvey Keitel all have roles; Jason Schwartzman appears for a total of about two minutes, Bill Murray one, Bob Balaban 30 seconds.
Fiennes, an underrated comic actor (see also In Bruges), is brilliant in the lead role, delivering Anderson's deadpan dialogue with relish and providing plenty of laughs along the way. Gustave is prissy and superior but ultimately very likeable.
As with previous Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel has been meticulously put together: each frame is impeccably detailed, decorated with the kind of sets, costumes and props that have defined his work.
There are plenty of visual gags to keep the eye entertained, while the film has energy and pace, sweeping its audience though the alleyways, train stations, monasteries and prisons of the fictional eastern European town of Zubrowka.
One repeated criticism of Anderson is, by concentrating on design, he puts 'feelings' to one side. However Fiennes provides an emotional core to the film (there is one scene between Gustave and Zero towards the end of the film that is particularly moving) and besides, when movie watching is such a joy, who cares?
It may not reach the heady heights of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, but this is arguably Anderson's best work since. It is a delight, leaving you feeling warm and fuzzy - the film equivalent of sitting by a roaring fire in a dressing gown, a mug of hot chocolate in hand.
RATING: Four out of five stars.
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