4.5 stars
It was only a matter of time that the idiosyncratic work of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig would collide with the rarified world of Wes Anderson, contemporary cinema's most idiosyncratic director. The result is one of the years funniest, most accomplished, exciting and exhilarating films. High praise, given Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom achieved similar accolades little more than a year ago. Yet his calculated, whimsical style conjures up a fantastical reality that is a perfect match for Zweig's 'simplistic' humanist tales.

Using his popular output as a springboard, Anderson creates a chocolate box Europe where spa hotels like The Grand Budapest Hotel were the playground of the rich and eccentric. Impossibly perched on a high mountain, the hotel is governed by the legendary concierge Gustav H (Ralph Fiennes) whose adventures with his young protégée Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) involve a missing painting, deceased old money (Tilda Swinton), her greedy son (Adrien Brody), his henchman (Willem Dafoe), the fascist ZigZag militia (Edward Norton) and a young baker (Saoirise Ronan) as told in flashback by an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) to a young writer (Jude Law) as recounted by his older self (Tom Wilkinson). As discussed, whimsical.

Not only is there the comic adventure of Gustav's grand chase through middle Europe, but Anderson also finds time to reflect on ages past: the hotel's glory days and its subsequent surrender to the Soviet era's crushing lack of personality. These ideas also play out in the engagement with writers Law and Wilkinson. But mostly this is a good, old fashioned romp that revels in Anderson's unique sense of humour and cinematic voice. Shot in 4:3 with an unapologetically playful use of models, his crisp use of colour and the appealing symmetry of his vision is only the start. The Grand Budapest Hotel also finds Anderson in a less restrictive mood as his camp, expletive laden script bounces from scene to scene reminiscent of silent-era comedies – he was only a heart-beat away from the ubiquitous sequence of frustrated people running in and out of doors along a lengthy corridor.

“When you're young it's all fillet steak. As you grow older, you move on to the cheaper cuts,” says the womanising Gustav. And when he calls on the help of the Society of Crossed Keys, it gives Anderson a chance to cameo the world and ratchet up the comedy even further. Then something quite unexpected, quite violent turns this from a bit of tom-foolery into a film with purpose. It is a simple enough moment, but one that lands like a slap to the face. Even then, Anderson simply doesn't put a foot wrong: everything about this film is placed with an artist's eye, from the virtually edible palate to a seemingly throw away line, nothing happens by chance. The Grand Budapest Hotel is an amazing work from a writer/director at the top of his game.


Previewed at Events Cinemas, George St, Sydney, on 17 March 2014



Ralph Fiennes
Tony Revolori
F. Murray Abraham
Edward Norton
Adrien Brody
Willem Dafoe
Tilda Swinton

Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson



100 minutes

April 10, 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) on IMDb
Stacks Image 56