The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Emma Simmonds
- 25 February 2014
A perfectly realised caper from the high priest of whimsy
A fusion of imagination, hilarity and ramshackle adventure, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest from the high priest of whimsy. Wes Anderson's eighth film dazzles and delights as if it has been liberated from the pages of a beautifully illustrated storybook. It is perhaps his most uncompromisingly eccentric and meticulously manufactured film to date. At its heart is an astonishing performance from Ralph Fiennes, who is a revelation as a comedian.
Fiennes plays Gustave H, proud employee of The Grand Budapest. As a concierge of no compare he's flamboyantly orderly but also prone to enthusiastically romancing the elderly guests, including the 84-year-old Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). When his wealthy lover dies in mysterious circumstances Gustave finds himself framed for her murder and with Zero his loyal lobby boy (Tony Revolori) in tow he makes a run for it. Adrien Brody is in fine moustache-twirling form as the villainous son of Madame D., Willem Dafoe is his cartoonishly monstrous henchman, while Edward Norton plays a diligent police officer.
The contrast between Gustave's genteel manner and the fact that he swears like a sozzled sailor is a source of constant humour, with Fiennes quite brilliant throughout. It's a film that's rampant with stars - Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel and Saoirse Ronan pop up and the narration shifts between Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law and F. Murray Abraham. But because Anderson doesn't make any pretence at realism, such ostentatious casting is an enhancement rather than a distraction, and combined with the enchanting production design there's a thrilling sense of a film perfectly realised.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is as ravishing as it is madcap; channelling a childlike sense of wide-eyed wonder, it recaptures the magic of early cinema whilst remaining peculiarly modern and thoroughly, utterly Anderson.
General release from Fri 7 Mar.