About 30 minutes into the running time of The Grand Budapest Hotel, just as Ralph Fiennes’ “Gustave” and Tony Revolori’s “Zero” liberate a painting from the clutches of evil, there’s a tiny practical effect. It’s not a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but it’s a small detail to be sure. When the picture is lifted vertically from the wall, the remaining hook sways horizontally. It doesn’t make sense in reality, but it speaks volumes in the kind of movie reality Wes Anderson has created since 1998’s Rushmore put him on the map.
The deliberate and accelerated delivery of lines. The framing almost exclusively following “rule of thirds”. Conscious lighting changes and more dollys than Toys’R’Us. There are many more and those familiar with Wes Anderson’s work relish each and every one. Although all auteurs have their quirks or familiar artistic signatures, the man who created Royal Tenenbaum seems to use it as a mechanism for telling stories in a way only he knows how. Where obvious models and cut outs would seem like a cheap Michel Gondry knock off, in Anderson’s world it informs the whimsy and delight he takes in his narrative style.
Unfolding as a re-telling of the current owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s life, the movie quickly sets up launch pad from which the narrative takes off. Although idiosyncratic, the film never puts so much effort into eccentricities that it forgets to tell a coherent story. The narrative voiceover helps, while we whizz from one scene to the next, but such an odyssey is always in danger of coming undone or become self-indulgent. This is in no small part to the cast. All of whom seem to slip in Wes’ particular style like a pair of hush puppies.
Gustav H is a delightful concoction. Wes, who wrote the script, obviously deserves some credit, but an exorbitant amount of kudos must be heaped on to Ralph Fiennes bringing Gustav vividly to life. There’s no doubt it’s Gustav’s film. The audience is unable to tear their eyes or ears from him – which is quite a feat when you consider the ensemble cast. What Fiennes gives is a creation of solid character that continuously surprises you while never seeming out of character. When introduced to Gustav he seems like a rogue with an unshakable vision of a true concierge. Yet throughout he can seem bumbling, flirtations and happy to walk between the rain drops of morality.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a true gem. A film so satisfying and so knowing, it’s like an old friend has come to stay.
5* - Indeed that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant... oh, fuck it.