********* 8 out of 10 *********
Director: Wes Anderson
Actors: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan
A movie is an art form, and like any other art form, its structure cannot be defined, for it is evolving every time, expanding, shrinking, changing its shape depending on the artist working on it. But more or less, movies have begun to be molded into similar patterns; the thrillers have a typical style, the romantic films have a similar feel, the sports movies have a common idea, etc. Now and again someone like a Wes Anderson or a Quentin Tarantino pops up, who changes the equation once again, who makes movies which are difficult to categorise, who breathes a freshness into this art of film-making. To understand what I am saying, one has to watch Wes Anderson’s latest flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel. For this is an adventure like none other, it is comical like none seen before, and it thrills in its unique delightful way. I feel inept to review The Grand Budapest Hotel for such artistry deserves to be seen and enjoyed, rather than written about; it is the work of a master after all!
The Grand Budapest Hotel narrates the adventure of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel, and his trusted lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori). Gustave H is a highly unusual fellow, who prides in the high standards he has maintained at the hotel which he serves. But when one of his guests mysteriously dies, a chain of events begin which will test the resoluteness of Gustave. With only Zero to trust upon, together they embark on a journey which is strife with danger on each step, but then without the element of danger, it won’t be an adventure worth remembering, would it?
The movie is said to be inspired by the writings of the famous Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Wes Anderson as always has been involved in the story and the screenplay of his film, and you wouldn’t want it to be touched by anyone else. The movie’s screenplay is one of the most refined works you would get to see this year. Not only is it of the highest standards when it comes to the narrative and the dialogues, it flows in such a breezy manner, that it plucks the audience out of their seats and into the adventure. With the opening shot itself, you know that you are going to be treated to something different, and what follows does not disappoint at all. The film flows through three timelines, and each one has been shot in a different aspect ratio, which adds further to the whole uniqueness of watching this movie. Wes Anderson uses many wide shots in this film, and allows the visual beauty of his surroundings to add more colour to his narrative. He mixes the drama and the comedy with the suspense artfully and leaves you hungry for more. Nothing is pushed or shoved, nothing is slow or terse, instead there is a beautiful rhythm to the film which makes the 100 minutes of its run-time disappear in a wink.
While Wes Anderson masterfully gets the picturisation perfect, the movie is further elevated by the delightful performance of Ralph Fiennes. There of course could never have been a question on his acting prowess, but if someone really wants to know how good he can be, then here is your answer. Fiennes is a charmer, for the ladies in the movie, for the audience on their seats; he talks with flourish, his style is impeccable, he never steps out of character for even a single frame, be it when he is narrating a short verse, or being romantic, or caught in a gun-fight. I read somewhere that Johnny Depp was Anderson’s first choice for this role, and if that were the case, I am glad it did not go through, for the gentlemanly charisma that Fiennes can bring in is unique to say the least.
Supporting Fiennes through the course of the film is the rather unknown Tony Revolori, who is still a teenager. But going by his performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel, this lad can put quite a few veterans to shame. Usually great directors manage to get their actors to do better than their best, and so a judgement on Revolori’s talents should preferably be made after a few more of his movies have been seen. But in Anderson’s flick, he hardly puts a foot wrong, acting as the bumbling buffoon and the concierge’s trusted friend with equal aplomb. His comic timing is perfect, and it has to be said that in his comfortable presence, Fiennes shone further. Saoirse Ronan, another talented young actress, brings in the female delicateness in the movie, and perfectly adds in a few more angles to this adventure. And what more to say about the incredibly talented string of actors Wes Anderson got on board for a brief role here and there; to talk about them further would destroy the joy they bring with their appearances. Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, F.Murray Abraham, are some of the prominent ones. In all, Anderson has cast four Oscar winners along with seven other Oscar nominees. How can then this movie go wrong!
The Grand Budapest Hotel released in the USA back in March and has already become Wes Anderson’s biggest hit till date. While I have not seen much of his previous works (which must be rectified), this movie is being touted as one of his best works, if not the best. It also appears much more lavish than its rather modest $30 million production budget would suggest. The movie is a terrific watch, not only for the adventure it provides, but also for the uniqueness of its narration, and the boldness with which it stands out. Anderson has indeed painted a masterpiece here!