The Grand Budapest Hotel

Delightfully infectious, spontaneously funny and impeccably detailed, this is one of the best films of the year.

2014 is yet to reach its half-way point but I think it’s safe to say that we may have a winner already. Delightfully infectious, spontaneously funny and impeccably detailed, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the best films of the year and perhaps director Wes Anderson’s best film yet.

Also co-written by Anderson, the story is a baroque-styled narration, and a story within a story about the once opulent Budapest Hotel – a pink mansion set atop ice capped ridges in the fictional European Republic of Zubrowka. Going from modern day to 1968, the narration begins when an unnamed author (Jude Law) meets the owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). The narration and perspective shifts to 1932, where the Grand Budapest is a luxurious hotel catering to the wealthy. Young Zero (Tony Revolori) has joined the hotel as the new lobby boy and is taken under the wing of head concierge M Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustav has an OCD for perfectionism, with work ethics that include pampering and seducing his richest guests – usually blonde older women. Madame D is one such guest but her mysterious death sets about a series of events that turns Gustav’s world inside-out while simultaneously making him a legend in the process.

Packed with incident after zany incident, Gustav and Zero’s adventures fill most of the running time with a script that never ceases to astonish. Anderson’s penchant for style and escapism exists, but this time his typical melancholy is replaced with plenty of madcap humour that turns out to be more whimsical than slapstick. And that’s a good thing because there’s also quite a few startling scenes of violence. Speaking of which, the backdrop is pre WWII fascism and despite the film’s many comical shenanigans, the inner musings on war and tragedy runs deep, even if these are masked with the film’s more recognisable outer façade of a whodunit murder mystery.

From costumes and makeup to the intricate crafting of its period backdrop, The Grand Budapest Hotel scores top marks as a multi-faceted and exquisitely fashioned set piece. Starting with the impressive cinematography, every frame in every scene is a picture perfect postcard. Another standout is the fantastic list of cameos, some of which are easily identifiable from Anderson’s previous films. From bad guys played by Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe to an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, this has to be one of the biggest ensembles since Anderson’s very own The Royal Tenenbaums. Finally, Anderson’s greatest nuance in this film is the creation of a loveable yet equally perverse Gustav. Not only has Fiennes ventured beyond his comfort zone, his Gustav commands your attention like no other character in Anderson’s eccentric universe. The Grand Budapest Hotel is highly recommended as a thoroughly enjoyable dramedy that is in pole position as one of the best films of the year. Once you check in you won’t want to check out!

Rating: ★★★★★

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.