“Why do you want to be a lobby boy?”
“Who wouldn’t – at the Grand Budapest, sir?”
The epitome of excellence, the Grand Budapest Hotel presides in the mountains of Zubrowka, a fictional country that could be anywhere in Eastern Europe. Guests are exotic, eccentric and as grand as the hotel itself as they unwind in the care of beloved concierge Gustave H. As the film unfolds, a murder is revealed and Gustave fights to clear his name with the help of his friend and lobby boy, Zero.
An exceedingly bizarre tale within a tale, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest film by acclaimed writer/director Wes Anderson. Ralph Fiennes steals the show as the irrepressibly optimistic and all too likeable Gustave H. – an impressive feat, considering the stellar cast around him (including Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton and William Dafoe).
Anderson’s screenplay was hugely inspired by the work of Austrian Stefan Zweig, an early 20th century author who at the height of his career was considered one of the most popular writers in the world. Unfortunately, Zweig has since sunk into obscurity, leaving his name little known amongst the general public. Zweig’s writing has been described both as the “incarnation of humanism”, and schmoozy, lightweight and superficial.
The Grand Budapest is laugh-out-loud hilarious – a mix of clever script and impeccable comic timing – but beneath the charming façade are intimations of conflict and dread. Though the film constantly treads the fine line between brilliant and ridiculous, it never stumbles: there is just enough darkness to give the story weight, and just enough reality to keep it from becoming a farce.
Stylistically faultless, the film is a visual feast. Stunning colour palettes fill the screen, with pastel pinks set against bright oranges and purples that should hurt the eyes but somehow add to the charm. Exterior scenes are filmed in miniature, with one particularly memorable chase in stop-motion.
In contrast to the increasing number of harshly sobering films currently being released, Wes Anderson has created a refreshingly lively caper-comedy, vibrant and bittersweet. The Grand Budapest Hotel is fantastic in every sense of the word.