Wes Anderson approaches cinema with a style all his own, with his latest offering “The Grand Budapest Hotel” culminating to be the apex of his work thus far. Immediately recognisable for his stylistic abilities, Anderson has clearly proved himself to be an indie director at the top of his field.
Set in a fictional Eastern European country known as the Republic of Zumbrowka, through a complex series of flashbacks that would give Inception a run for its money, Tom Wilkinson plays an author recalling his younger self (Jude Law) as he meets The Grand Budapest’s mysterious elderly guest Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who recounts his days as a lobby boy at the hotel in 1932. Are you still with me?
During his time as a lobby boy, much of young Moustafa’s (Tony Revolori) story centres on his endlessly charming and charismatic mentor M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), who works as the hotels resident Lothario and concierge. Following the murder of regular guest and part-time lover Madame D (an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton), Gustave is bequeathed a priceless painting – Boy With Apple. A fact that is much detested by her greedy son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) and his cartoonishly evil henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe). What follows is a farcical pursuit across snowy landscapes consisting of lawyers, hit men, a couple of civil wars, and an elaborate prison break to name but a few.
The dark comedy of the film runs perfectly on point throughout never missing an opportunity to coax a laugh from its audience. However, it does seem that Anderson was somewhat overambitious with the convolution of genres packed into this 100 minute feature. Drama, comedy, romance, mystery, action: Trying to cram everything in, the romantic subplot between Mousafa and Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) left a lot to be desired, falling flat as the one bum note of the picture.
The plot of the film was thin at best, with Madame D’s death feeling more of a maguffin than an actual story in need of resolution, often leaving the movie to feel as though there was too much, and not enough going on in equal measure. However, adopting what has become the signature aesthetic of a Wes Anderson film, stylistically the movie is stunning. With perfect framing, elaborate set designs, intricate costumes and a quirkiness that envelops every scene, it is a visual treat. This begs the question as to whether the film displayed more style than substance, but moreover if the style is so meticulously created with such flair; does it matter?
Ralph Fiennes was note perfect as the comic lead. His delivery and sense of timing were unmatched, proving himself to be a contender for the title of best actor in the 2015 award season. His character was an interesting and provocative persona fluctuating from a self-serving egotist to a caring confidant, all while uttering brilliant quips and heartfelt soliloquies. Unfortunately, he was one of few characters of note. While giving reasonable performances, many of the renowned ensemble were underused often serving as one-note background characters due to the sheer volume of performers.
Our verdict is: When you’re this stylish, who cares what you have to say? Just go along with the ride and enjoy the rich and offbeat world Anderson has created. 9/10