In his latest cinematic venture The Grand Budapest Hotel, writer/director Wes Anderson presents another uniquely whimsical tale full of adventure, impish humour, and imagination. Set in a European hotel in the fictitious Republic of Zubrrowka during what could be the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, or Soviet empires, The Grand Budapest Hotel depicts the peculiar, yet intriguing relationship between Gustave H., a legendary hotel concierge, and the protege who becomes his most trusted confidant. With solid performances by both new and old Wes Anderson film players and the usual Wes Anderson comical shtick, The Grand Budapest Hotel delivers all the charm, humour, and unique scenarios that only a satirist of this caliber could provide.
In a review by The New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott heralds the newest Wes Anderson jaunt as a film with much integrity and a great deal of ambition, the latter being influenced by a rich and complicated dose of 20th century dreams. A grand contrast from from his last cinematic masterpiece Moonrise Kingdom, which was set in a coastal island town in New England during the summer of 1965, The Grand Budapest Hotel weaves various time periods in Eastern European history to tell its tale. He also integrates themes similar in many of his films with romance dominating and driving much of the plot.
The main story unfolds in the narrow scope so common to pictures of the 1930s. However, Anderson uses flashbacks within flashbacks to deliver the real meat of film, giving the audience extra layers to the plot. Set high in the mountains of the Swiss Alps, the hotel itself plays a prominent role in the telling of this exotic story. The movie also spans different time lines—jumping from 1985 to 1968 to various years in the 1930s. And like most of his other films, Anderson uses creative costumes, backdrops, and set displays to spin his uncanny tale.
Of course no Wes Anderson vehicle is complete without the usual cast of actors, which include Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson. Murray, who can currently be seen in The Monuments Men, plays M. Ivan, a fellow concierge who comes to the rescue of the main characters. The concierge at the beginning of The Grand Budapest Hotel is played by Schwartzman, whose last comedic role aside from Moonrise Kingdom was Funny People—a Judd Apatow film that Picturebox describes as a comedy about a successful actor who, after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, decides to go back to his roots as a stand-up comic where he meets and befriends a struggling comedian. Wilson, who has acted in a multitude of Wes Anderson films including The Royal Tenenbaums alongside his brother Luke, plays M. Chuck, the flashiest of the concierges. Although these three brilliant actors take a backseat to the other more prominent characters in the film, true Wes Anderson fans will recognise their emblematic approaches to their simple characters.
New to the world of Wes Anderson are Ralph Fiennes who plays the lead role of M. Gustave; Tony Revolori who acts as Zero, M. Gustave's sidekick; and Saoirse Ronan as Agatha. While Fiennes has typically played more dramatic and tragic characters, he switches to a more comedic role as Gustave. His humourous delivery is only coupled by his still serious demeanor. Revolori, who has mostly been featured in television shows like My Name is Earl and the American version of Shameless, is delightful as the affable supporting character. Also, as ComingSoon notes, the movie truly works because Fiennes and Revolori bounce off each other well. Ronan is another relatively new face to the big screen, appearing in Atonement before being cast in a prominent role in major motion pictures The Lovely Bones and Hanna. Though this may only be her third appearance in a considerable Hollywood film, Ronan magnetizes the audience as the stoic Agatha, who is the love interest of Zero.
While critics may pan this movie as another standard Wes Anderson flick, the way in which the story is told, the rich characters, and the plot itself is a new kind of Wes. Yes, he sticks to a certain formula, but this has proven to work for the eccentric filmmaker. And, for his fans, this classic delivery is what keeps them coming to the theaters and makes any Anderson film a cult favourite.
By Karen Quinn
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