'Grand Budapest Hotel' review: Wes Anderson opus worth checking into

A scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel (Handout)

A scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel (Handout)

Rating

4.5 Stars4.5/5

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:58 PM ET

Wes Anderson’s latest opus, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is bloody bonkers and simply splendid.

That said, if you reject the work of America’s most eccentric filmmaker, there is nothing scattered among the grotesqueries and pleasures of the new film to entice you. Anderson’s cinema is so particular and so peculiar that individual taste is critical.

Consider his credits as writer-director: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, the unfairly maligned The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, the sly animation Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and now The Grand Budapest Hotel. Throughout the 18 years Anderson has been creating these films, there is a distinct growth in scale, a refining of his unique, hyper-real and colour-saturated visual style and an emerging sense of grandeur in his storytelling.

Consequently, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s finest work, a signature piece that defines the Texan’s off-kilter career. The film is bold and staggeringly beautiful. It is both refined and profane. It is both funny and tragic. It is artifice taken to giddy heights. Kudos to Robert D. Yeoman for the gorgeous cinematography, Adam Stockhausen for the surreal production design and Alexandre Desplat for the daring mood music.

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The screen is populated with many of Anderson’s favourites, plus a new coterie of actors who mesh with the regulars. The lead roles are occupied by Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori (a Guatemalan-American who is a giddy revelation as the dryly comic counterpoint to Fiennes’ brilliant bluster).

Key support players make up a rogues gallery: Bill Murray (as droll as ever), Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson, Bob Balaban, Owen Wilson, Fisher Stevens and Tilda Swinton (unrecognizable in aging makeup as an old crone).

The story is deceptive. With Abraham as narrator and Law as his listener, the saga is told as a verbal memoir or amoral fable over dinner, at a time when the hotel of the title has faded from its past status as the most flamboyant hotel in Europe. The actual location, even the country, is vague. In Anderson’s world, specifics give way to impressions. Inspired by the work of 20th Century Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig — who believed in European unification but was forced to flee the Nazis — Anderson deals with politics, war, fascism, bureaucracy, greed, love, loyalty and luxury, the latter category encompassing perfume, wine and fine food.

When the story flashes back, we are taken to the hotel’s glory years, during the 1930s when the outrageously venal, bixsexual and highly educated character played by Fiennes runs the establishment. He does so with a mad combination of elegance and depravity. Fiennes’ performance is a thing of wonder unlike any other in cinema history.

Monsieur Gustave, as he is known, takes on a protege (Revolori) who is known only as Zero. The two end up in escapades worthy of a spy movie, but filtered through Anderson’s genius. By the theatrical end, as The Grand Budapest Hotel becomes a madcap memory, anyone who already loves Anderson’s cinema is exhausted ... and blissfully happy!

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

 


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