For his eighth feature, writer-director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom) achieves the enviable feat of creating perhaps his best film yet, without relinquishing his unique signature style. All the elements are present in this period comedy caper that follows the travails of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge par excellence at the legendary East European establishment. Renowned for his impeccable service and dedication, as well as for romancing a string of ageing wealthy guests, Gustave H. is the beating heart of the hotel, whose increasingly perilous exploits we witness through the eyes of Zero, the lobby boy.
Told through a layered series of flashbacks, each signified by a change in the film’s framing, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a spirited and joyous experience, brimming with A-list cameo performances and lovingly referencing the 1930s comedies and spy thrillers of Ernst Lubitsch and Alfred Hitchcock. Anderson’s signature deadpan humour and whimsical world view are on full display, but set against a backdrop of impending global conflict, the film is infused with a perilous, infectious energy.
In keeping with Anderson’s typically intimate narratives, The Grand Budapest Hotel is at its heart a dissection of a man who projects an image of immaculate composure and selfless servitude, but who underneath is a scoundrel, a bounder and a cad. In a rare comedic turn, Ralph Fiennes is wonderful in the lead role, tying together Anderson’s madcap world with a hilarious, manic central performance that proves the cherry on top of this deliciously layered confection.
This review first appeared in Cathay Pacific’s Discovery Magazine, June 2014