You’ve probably seen the theatrical trailers for the Grand Budapest Hotel. One can glean from them that it includes Ralph Fiennes running around a hotel in a garishly purple coloured suit delivering succinct one liners in an almost parody fashion. The film is entertaining, funny and vivid, the ensemble cast all do their job, but it is probably Fiennes’ performance that trumps the entire film.
For anyone who absolutely ate up Anderson’s previous film The Moonrise Kingdom (2012), then you know exactly how this director works. He employs a vivid, colourful feast of scenery and sets with a huge ensemble cast. Anderson generally works with the same people, similar to Adam Sandler’s films always having his buddies in them. The film is cast with a mixture of notable actors from around the world, but includes heavy weights Fiennes, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and Jude Law. For the most part, they only grace us with a scene, camo or one-liner, as their notable reputation and face does all the work. Anderson probably knows he could easily cast an unknown, but he also knows the impact behind the cast is how many well known actors the audience can recognise. The only unknown actor is Tony Revolori, who plays the young Bell Boy Zero Moustafa, who undoubtedly rivals Fiennes for the most screen time.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in the fictional European Republic of Zubrowka, and follows Zero and Fiennes’ character, M.Gustav H. after he is framed for the murder of a hotel guest. Norton plays the Inspector Henckles (similar to his role as the Scout leader in Moonrise Kingdom) and Saoirse Ronan plays Agatha, Zero’s baking girlfriend. Fiennes really is the string which binds the entire film together. He is not known for his comedic performances, and it is rare we see an actor of such high calibre take on a role such as M. Gustav H. He manages to maintain his portrayal as a serious, yet parodic character that doesn’t fall into tacky, unbelievable humour. The language utilised by M. Gustav H. and the hilarious situations that he manages to get himself into adds to the great humour of the film.
Anderson’s narrative style is akin to a line of colourful storyboards in motion, traditional in the sense that it harks back to old cinematic techniques. You can almost imagine the Grand Budapest Hotel as a theatrical play with a revolving set. The film travels widely, but barely uses natural scenery and landscapes. CGI and miniatures are clearly used but they provide a more comedic, narrative effect rather than looking tacky as you might think. The sets, costumes and CGI are epic and sumptuous; a real feast for the eyes. The film has a European parody-heist film like quality that enhances the comedic and entertainment value but does not stray into slapstick.
The film is pure comedy, but a comedy that is hard to grasp or describe with words. Anderson skilfully takes us back to the 1920’s, 1930’s cinematic days of parody and entertainment while telling a rather long and complicated narrative. He contrasts the genre with blindingly bright colours and distinct characters all strongly contained and controlled to utter perfection.