The Grand Budapest Hotel
Film Review by Kam Williams
Ralph Fiennes Delivers as Concierge in Droll Wes Anderson Dramedy
Wes Anderson films are sui generis, one of a kind affairs as easy to identify as, say, a Thelonious Monk piano solo or a Frank Sinatra vocal. You can spot one of his works by watching just a snippet of celluloid.
Anderson’s latest offering, The Grand Budapest Hotel, not only stays true to his vibrant visuals and tongue-in-cheek narrative style but rates right up there with the best of the bunch, including Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Darjeeling Limited which was this critic’s pick as the #1 film of 2007.
Ralph Fiennes seems perfectly cast to play the picture’s protagonist, and he is ably assisted in that endeavor by a dramatis personae comprised of an abundance of Anderson alumni, including Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel, Waris Ahluwalia and Scott Rudin.
The droll dramedy is set in 1932 in the fictional Eastern European nation of Zubrowka which is where we find unctuous concierge Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes) playing his trade at the eponymous titular establishment. There, he lavishes his attention and affections on vulnerable ladies, provided they’re rich, blonde, elderly and needy. Narrating the blow-by-blow is Gustave’s game protégé, Zero (Tony Revolori), a loyal, lowly “Lobby Boy” learning the tricks of the trade.
Just past the point of departure, we learn that one of the hotel’s guests, Madame D. (Swinton), has just died mysteriously. A swarm of relatives, close and distant, show up for the reading of the wealthy widow’s will by her attorney (Brody), each hoping for a sizable chunk of the estate.
However, it turns out that the dearly departed left “Boy with Apple,” the only valuable painting in her entire art collection to the gigolo Gustave. So, when an autopsy reveals that Madam was poisoned with strychnine, he is summarily arrested and charged with murder.
It’s no long before he hatches an elaborate jailbreak with the help of Zero, and soon the chase is on, with the heirs, the authorities, a hired assassin (Dafoe), and even Nazis in hot pursuit, as Gustave desperately attempts to clear his badly-besmirched name so he can hold onto the priceless portrait.
A sublime whodunit designed for cinephiles with sophisticated palates.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and violence
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures