Wes Anderson’s new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is his funniest and most dramatic piece to date. Providing a performance by Ralph Fiennes who performs his lines on such a perfect note, he makes the audience feel welcome. Probably even more welcome than Johnny Depp, if he played the lead role. It also provides a terrific ensemble, very fast-paced dialogue, quirky/off-beat characters, wonderful sets, and a great story inspired by the works of a forgotten author, Stefan Zweig.
The Grand Budapest Hotel begins in the present, where a teenage girl walks into a cemetery. She begins reading a memoir about an author’s visit to the hotel in 1968. We, then, flashback to 1985 where the author (Tom Wilkinson) ponders his experience at The Grand Budapest Hotel in the Swiss Alps in the fictional European Republic of Zubrowka. He begins recording his story while we, yet again, flashback to 1968.
Over the years, the hotel has gone through hard times with war and poverty. The author at a young age (Jude Law) meets an unlikely person named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the hotel’s concierge. When Zero invites him for dinner, he tells him his story on how he became the concierge.
We flashback, one last time, to 1932 with Zero at a young age (newcomer Tony Revolori) becoming the new lobby boy at the hotel and the protege of M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). The hotel’s first concierge makes out with the elderly woman who come to his hotel for his pleasure. When he becomes accused of murdering his lover Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton; unrecognizable in the old-age make-up), he must prove his own innocence.
I think Johnny Depp would have been a good choice to play the lead role. Hell, even he would be a great choice to play the lead in any Wes Anderson movie. However, no one can play a much better role than Ralph Fiennes. He performs M. Gustave with so much wit and charm that you see him disappear into the role. His delivery of his lines is spot-on. The cast performs really well, including newcomer Tony Revolori. The cameos featuring fellow Anderson collaborators Bill Murray and Owen Wilson are note-worthy.
The Grand Budapest Hotel has a perfect blend of comedy and drama. The movie satirizes the fall of World War I and the rise of World War II. Its dialogue is fast-paced; following the path of the screwball comedies of the Depression era (the films featuring the Marx brothers). The characters have a unique quirkiness. Particularly Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), the baker of the hotel who becomes Zero’s lover and the one who helps M. Gustave getting out of jail. On her right cheek, she has a birthmark in the shape of Mexico. Why does she have a Mexico-shaped birthmark? Beats me. It’s just a typical Wes Anderson quirk.
The movie is not without its dramatic moments. Like in The Life Aquatic, violence is a very unusual factor, even by Anderson’s standards. The Grand Budapest Hotel features a well-executed gunfight in the hotel, and a well-shot chase in the ski slopes that had me on the edge of my seat. The movie has a pretty depressing theme involving how nostalgia can end with the rise of war.
Wes Anderson creates a world that is vibrant in color and surreal in its style that makes me wish I want to extend my visit in The Grand Budapest Hotel. This is the best film of 2014 so far.