March 14, 2014 – I have looked forward to this movie ever since I giggled through the preview for it a few months ago. My excitement was so high in fact that I began to worry if it could never live up to my hype.
Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tells the charming, funny, and often quirky story of employees and guests at a European hotel in a fictional country in the early 1930s. As with Anderson’s other films, it casts usual suspects, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman, along with the welcome addition of Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, and several surprises. Make no mistake about it though, its Fiennes film.
Anderson told Fiennes that when he wrote the part, he had thought of him. Fiennes does not typically play comic roles, so I am not sure whether it was luck or insight on Anderson’s part. Either way, Fiennes is brilliant as Gustave, the hotel concierge accused of murder. Gustave is a character similar to the witty Inspector Clouseau created by Peter Sellers for the “Pink Panther” series. Fiennes doesn’t copy Seller’s or Clouseau’s style per se, but rather captures their comic timing.
The story is nostalgic, and filled with intrigue, adventure, romance, and unexpected friendship. It’s quite European, rich with history and discontent with what is about to happen to the continent as World War II approaches. Yet the serious undertone doesn’t take away from its comic genius. It’s also visually appealing, with colorful art deco images throughout. Anderson’s work is known for its stunning detail.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a fun caper that grabs you from the beginning and keeps you thoroughly entertained throughout its 100 minutes. I’d recommend it for anyone who likes an outside of the box comedy, although I remember the elderly ladies walking out of “Moonrise Kingdom” complaining that they just didn’t get it, so Anderson’s style isn’t for everyone. The release is early in the year, which often lends to being forgotten during awards season, but this may be the one that earns him the Oscar.