The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenwriter: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson, Léa Seydoux, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, F. Murray Abraham
Following the release of the acclaimed Moonrise Kingdom in 2012, Wes Anderson would make perhaps one of the defining films of the 2010s and one of the most praised in his storied filmography. 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has proven to be a gargantuan success in the seven years since its release, earning the joint most nominations at the 2015 Oscars with 9 (equal with Birdman), and featuring on the BBC’s 2016 list of the Best Films of the 21st Century, a list that also featured Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom.
The Grand Budapest Hotel was immediately acclaimed in reviews from most major sources, with Empire publishing, “For those willing to check in without prejudice, this may well be among Anderson’s better films, one of the few that repay repeated viewings”. The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be a film that even some of Anderson’s detractors have found various levels of enjoyment in. While it is too soon to say if this is his most universally praised film, the sheer levels of fandom it has created indicate it is in contention to be one of his most beloved.
This colourful 2014 release follows a lowly lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) as he starts his life working at the eponymous establishment in the fictional nation of Zubrowka. Following a series of flashbacks through various decades, the bulk of the story occupies the space between the two World Wars, acting somewhat as a musing on the rise of Fascism in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1930s. Zero works under the tutelage of the eccentric Monsieur M Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the hotel’s concierge who has had a number of affairs with elderly wealthy women including the mysterious Madame D (Tilda Swinton). Following Madame D’s death, Gustave and Zero are embroiled in a series of escapades relating to Madame D’s will and the grievances of her family, finding themselves at odds with local law enforcement.
Perhaps the film’s biggest strength is its tone, Anderson fully committing to his trademarked quirky dialogue and humour which on paper is at odds with the time period in which the story is set. The balance between humour and darkness at times walks a fine line, but Ralph Fiennes’ Gustave is never short of a quip or two and this often offsets some of the darker moments. This is arguably one of Anderson’s most outright funny films, and whether or not it would be classed as a comedy certainly leans heavily on the comedic chops of its leads, with Fiennes excelling in a role worlds away from most of his work to this point and earning some of the best reviews in his own storied career.
Alexandre Desplat’s score is one of his finest – featuring notable Russian folk undertones – and rightly won the Oscar for Original Score. The score is complementary of the film’s setting and period, and works wonderfully in contrast to Anderson’s more pop and rock heavy soundtracks present in the filmmaker’s previous films.
While all of Anderson’s films are ensemble affairs to differing extents, The Grand Budapest Hotel features one of his finest, with each of the cast getting their moments to shine, be it Willem Dafoe as a mercenary, Jeff Goldblum as a show-stealing lawyer, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton or Saoirse Ronan. While the film does well to allow its large cast of supporting characters to have moments in the spotlight, the film undoubtedly belongs to the duo of Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori.
It’s not hard to see why The Grand Budapest Hotel has gleaned such love over the past seven years. It is a perfect encapsulation of the best of Anderson’s works, with its fast-paced dialogue and candy coloured visual palette. Anchored by an eccentric Ralph Fiennes offering some of the finest work of his career, the tone is balanced to perfection, its absurdity meeting deeper moments in a seamless and wholly enjoyable fashion. There are few films that can boast such a complete authorial vision as The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that sets the high marker for Wes Anderson’s acclaimed career.