The Midas Touch
By Adam Sturrock
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revalori (and many many more)
Reading the cast list of The Grand Budapest Hotel is a lot like reading a who’s who of big name actors and actresses. Confusingly, Bill Murray et al aren’t in a film directed by Steven Spielberg or JJ Abrams but rather, the indie director, Wes Anderson. Not that this a bad thing, it is a testament to the director that the film is not crushed by the egos of many but actually overcomes the pitfalls and is a solid film regardless.
At first, however, the introduction is a jumpy mess. It takes time for it to settle down but prior to that you are thrown in at the deep end and shown Wes Anderson’s eccentric style; a colourful, almost cartoon-ish grandeur that has become his trademark. Once the story has finally settled and steadied in the fictional Republic of Zubrowska, the fun truly begins.
The plot revolves around the tycoon Zero Mustapha (F. Murray Abraham/ newcomer, Revalori) and his relationship with the legendary concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, M. Gustav H (played by an electric Fiennes). Charming, incendiary, contradictory at times, Gustav H is by far the main reason for you to watch the film. Not that everybody else were poor – of course not – but Ralph Fiennes as Gustav shows impeccable comic timing and gusto for the role that steals mostly every scene he graces. With Wes Anderson showing a penchant for debuting promising actors in his films, the next on the list is Tony Revalori, who puts in a measured performance as the young Zero alongside relative veteran, Saoirse Ronan as Agatha.
*Spoiler* I just wanted to mention my confusion as to how they treated Agatha’s character in the film. The old Zero Moustapha cried at the thought of his beloved Agatha and yet her eventual demise is almost glanced over as an after thought; couldn’t they have done something more to milk the character to prove that she meant something to him? Afterall, we don’t even see their first meeting, we see them slap-bang in the middle of a whirlwind romance looking at nupitials. *spoiler*.
Moving on, as per usual, Robert Yeoman is on top of his game as the cinematography is excellent and sticks to the symetrical film shots that Anderson fans know and love. Everything is so colourful and it is a feast for the eyes, especially in the Grand hotel itself, as if it is another character in the film. I like how instead of relying on CGI, Wes opted to use miniture models of all the building for wide shots, adding to the over-the-top style of the film.
Even the villains are fantastic in the film. With both Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe portraying a dastardly duo, almost as if they are part of a pantomime, they comically embodied the antagonists of the movie. Willem Dafoe fits this especially as the henchman J.G Jopling, a darkly funny juggernaut that thunders his way into every scene with seemingly cement-filled boots clunking about, equally heavy knuckle-dusters and sharpened teeth like Dracula’s. A bizarre cross between Dastardly and Muttely, rarely speaking, both ominous and comical at the same time – I wished he had more scenes.
With the film being a comical romp throughout, a slightly bitter aftertaste lingers as in the background, we see the start of the Second World War tear asunder the lives of many. With a gradual introduction and an extravagent middle, the end finishes so abuptly and this is where my problems with it lie. The middle of everything is so brilliant but we are unable to see the bits on either side with much detail. We grow attached to the main characters but they are discarded so promptly and are unable to wish them a proper goodbye. We forget that the characters in the middle are merely afterthoughts in comparison with the real story of the hotel in which the film takes its name; not only are we seeing the eccentric characters in their youth but we get to see the what-seems-to-be-doomed hotel in its hayday.
Nonetheless the film is an indie knockout, if we can call it that. With the pacing of the film frolicking from set piece to set piece it is a feast for the eyes but some may struggle to keep up as it speeds ahead into comically absurd territory. It is a superb start to 2014 and hopefully this will be just a diamond among many.
What did you guys think of the film? Let me know in the comment section below.