“Well, what does it say? Where is it? What’s it all about, damn it? Don’t keep us in suspense, Serge, this has been a complete fucking nightmare! Just tell us what the fuck is going on!” – M. Gustave, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
I never really thought I’d be doing a review of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Initially I was using my film reviews to watch all the films in my collection that I had yet to see. But I thought I may as well review the films I had seen also. I’m glad I did, because I now get to talk about the best film of 2014. Sorry John Wick (2014), but The Grand Budapest Hotel is the film of 2014, and you’ll have to read my review to find out.
For a plot, the film is intricate but simplistic and it works exceedingly well. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero (Tony Revolori) are tasked with proving Gustave’s innocence after the murder of his former elderly lover (Tilda Swinton). Together they come across riches, perils and love over the better part of an hour and a half. The story is told through the eyes of an older Zero (Thomas F. Wilson) and recounted by the author (Jude Law and Tom Wilkinson).
For the most part, Wes Anderson films are always visually stunning, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly no exception to this rule. There is no other word to describe the visuals other than truly magnificent and stunning in every expression of the word. There’s a definite grandeur surrounding the visuals, especially the colours used throughout. See, the problem with me reviewing this film is I’m actually studying it for my media studies course. All I can think about commenting on is how the colour changes rapidly through the film to show the change in dynamic and plot. The problem there is I doubt anyone reading this review gives a shit, right?
Right. So what is there for those that aren’t really too interested in how colour portrays the plot? Well, the performances from literally every actor is peak and stellar. There are no performances in this film that are bad, none at all. Of course, there are those that stand out amongst the crowd. I refer of course to M. Gustave, Ralph Fiennes best and arguably finest film role of all. He plays the character with an elegance, grace and brash style and it works perfectly for the overall tone of the film. That’s not to say he alone is the only exceptional performance, not at all. He works very well with Zero, played by Tony Revolori.
Those that read my review of Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) may be quick to realise that Tony Revolori also stars in that film too. He’s a bloody good actor as far as I know, after watching two films anyway. This was his debut film, so I’m surprised at how truly good he plays his role. He and Ralph Fiennes work extraordinarily well together, and they work very hard to provide some great performances. The two play off of one another in what can be only described as one of the greatest film performances of all.
We learn quite a lot about Gustave H. throughout the duration of this film. I won’t go into the details of what we exactly learn about him, but believe me we get a great depiction of his character. All of this is thanks to those around him. Throughout the film we begin to pick up small details and from there can craft a bigger character. It’s excellently done. We learn very little about Gustave H.’s past, but we do learn almost everything about him as a person and his future.
I should note that, after careful consideration, Gustave H. may be my favourite film character of all time. There’s no other acting/character combo that I can hold so highly as such a memorable role. Maybe it’s because there is no other film like this. It is it’s own genre. A friend asked me to describe the genre of this film and I honestly couldn’t give a straight answer. It’s a comedy, drama, murder mystery all rolled into one, but it’s nothing like any of the genres it fits into. It takes the fast paced and subversion of the best comedy, alongside the most thrilling and epic of dramas. On top of that it weaves an intricate and brilliant murder mystery that manages to link and revolve around Gustave H. and his lobby boy Zero.
This was my fourth time watching the film. You can probably tell from there that this film has some brilliant replayability. For me, this film gets better every time you watch it. You pick up on small and intricate details you’ll have missed in your first few viewings. That’s the sign of an amazing film, when you can keep the viewer invested in something new every time. For me, on this viewing, I took note of the backgrounds and set design.
I must admit, the set design for this film is truly remarkable. The Lutz was a personal favourite of mine, given the corridors and hallway designs. Alongside that was the hotel itself, which had a very peachy tone to it that suited the overall film rather well.
Something I often forget to comment on is the soundtrack for a film. It’s not because there isn’t any music, but because there isn’t any that is of actual note. My God this soundtrack makes the film. It’s got a certain elegance surrounding it that plays off on the film very well. Each composition fits in well with what the film tries to convey. Alexandre Despalt provides probably the greatest film soundtrack since Reservoir Dogs (1992). I only say that because I own a copy of the Supersonic Sounds of the Seventies and I love that album.
I should point out that the overall cast for this film is full of many notable faces. Willem Dafoe keeps up his 2014 tradition of dying in films as Jopling. Alongside him is a whole ensemble cast. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody and even Harvey Keitel all have an important and notable role in this production. Some, arguably, are minute when compared to others. Bill Murray appears in only three very short scenes, the longest of which is maybe about a minute in length. That’s not to say his character is underutilised though, by God it’s not.
For me, this film was very close to perfection, and upon watching it once more I finally get that this film is perfect. It’s elegantly crafted and meticulously put together in a way that is a uniquely thrilling experience. There is nothing at fault in this film whatsoever and it creates for some bloody entertaining viewing every single time.
I cannot honestly recommend this film enough. It’s in my top five of all time films ever made. A crisp and beautiful looking film with some truly special performances from everyone involved. Couple that with a great plot and even better writing and you have yourself yet another Wes Anderson masterpiece. That’s exactly what this film is, the Wes Anderson masterpiece. Colourful, elegant and most of all a bloody good time.