Movie review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

By Russell Baillie

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Ralph Fiennes plays the caddish Monsieur Gustave.
Ralph Fiennes plays the caddish Monsieur Gustave.

Judging on the plans alone, Wes Anderson's latest mad maze of a movie attempts to out-Wes Anderson all his previous films.

It's got a cast list that goes on for days, roping in many of his regulars and a few newbies. It's got a production design that outdoes anything in the gently esoteric American director's past elaborate creations.

It's got a leap into an imagined, idealised past to the once elegant hotel of the title in the fictitious country of Zubrowka on the eve of World War II. It's got a story-within-story structure of three different periods, all exhibiting a fine collection of moustaches.

Thankfully The Grand Budapest Hotel has also something other than just prickly top lips and rampant Andersonesque quirks.

It's got a loopy plot involving murder, a valuable painting bequeathed in a will, a prison escape, and the undying loyalty of a lobby boy called Zero (Tony Revolori) to his hotel concierge mentor Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes).

The movie gets its heartbeat from Fiennes' infectious performance. His Gustave is a stickler for standards and decorum and a formidable intellect. But he's also something of a cad when it comes to some of the elderly female guests. When one, the magnificently named Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe-und-Taxis (an artificially aged Swinton) kicks the bucket, Gustave is the prime suspect, especially after he's named in her will as the new owner of her priceless Renaissance painting, Boy with Apple. So begin Gustave's problems with the matriarch's natural heirs and the family's resident evil henchman Jopling (Dafoe).

Though what follows can at times feel like Tintin-for-adults, GBH also comes with a bittersweet streak that neatly undercuts the frothiness.

It's there in the flashback-within-a-flashback narrative which shows what history has done to the establishment. And it's there in Gustave's increasingly dim view of the world outside the hotel's grand entrance.

But inside those doors, is Anderson's mad maze of a movie. It's one to lose yourself in.


Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton
Director: Wes Anderson
Rating: M (Violence, offensive language, sexual references, nudity)
Running time: 100 mins
Verdict: Tintin for adults

- TimeOut

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