Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: Delightful Old World Charmer

April 27, 2014

"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is the latest quirky masterpiece of young acclaimed writer-director Wes Anderson. Since his breakthrough writing and directing "Rushmore" in 1998, his every output had been highly anticipated, admired and discussed. "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), "the Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2010) and "Moonrise Kingdom" (2013) have all been nominated for Oscar honors. His films are all marked with wry humor and out-of-the-box imagery, making them enjoyable and memorable.

His latest film "The Grand Budapest Hotel" brings us to quaint and exotic Eastern Europe in the 1930s. The hotel was in its heyday as the hangout of the rich and famous, under the efficient management of its charming concierge, M. Gustave H. When one of his favorite guests, Madame D., was suddenly murdered, Gustave becomes implicated when the Madame bequeaths a precious painting to him, to the dismay of her family. What follows is a merry and witty romp as Gustave sought to prove his innocence with the help of his loyal protégé, the young lobby boy named Zero.

This fanciful story was told as a story written by an old author in the 1980s, describing a night in his youth when he spent with the elderly Zero Moustafa, the owner of the hotel when it was way past its prime in the late 1960s. It was then that Zero related how the Grand Budapest came to be in his possession. I thought this layered story-telling style of a tale within a tale within a tale is totally delightful and inspired.

Old European charm and gentility is stamped all over this film. The production design should be commended for those beautiful sets. The candy-colored hotel and the grand mansion of Madame D. were both designed and decorated so deliciously intricate and ornate. The period costumes were amazing in their detail and sense of humor. The actions sequences were done like they were silent movies from the 1920s -- totally fun.

M. Gustave is played by the multi-faceted Ralph Fiennes, whose comic timing was surprisingly sharp and flawless. The rest of the cast was an eclectic mix of Oscar-caliber actors, winners and nominees all. The elder Zero was played by F. Murray Abraham, whom I had not seen in a mainstream movie since he won the Oscar Best Actor in "Amadeus" (1984). We also see Adrian Brody, Tilda Swinton, Soarsie Ronan, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, and Owen Wilson. This all-star cast were all on point in their portrayals of their smaller but marked roles.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film. It is delightful. It is charming. It is the most fun I have had watching a Wes Anderson film since "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." I am definitely looking forward to his next eccentric project. 9/10.

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