"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a picaresque tale presented as a convoluted wacky action-packed farcical thriller replete with old world charm, visual gags, exotic settings and thoroughly entertaining characters.
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Wilkinson;
Director: Wes Anderson;
Rating: *** and 1/2;
Director Wes Anderson creates a quirky universe that is colourful, simple yet complex, which might appeal to viewers who are enthused about avant-garde films and arts.
Narrated in a non-linear fashion, the story takes place in three time zones -- 1985, 1968 and the 1930s post World War I.
It is about the ownership of the once glorious spa resort, The Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictitious Republic of Zubrowka.
Theatrically staged, the story opens with an author, played by Tom Wilkins, recalling his chance encounter with Mr. Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the owner of the hotel, who over dinner recounts how he as a teenaged refugee landed up in the hotel to work as a lobby boy.
Then in a five-part narration, he further elaborates how he was soon taken under the wing of the able, flamboyant and well respected head concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and how he landed up becoming the owner of the hotel!
At the heart of the tale is the unconventional and amusing relationship between the head concierge and the lobby boy.
Tony Revolori as the young Zero Moustafa is endearing. With unfaltering youthful dignity, he does everything from fetching the morning papers to breaking Gustave out of prison.
He also falls in love with the beautiful scar-faced pastry maker Agatha, aptly played by Saoirse Ronan. Unfortunately, their relationship is under-developed as well as short lived.
Fiennes as ever pleasing M. Gustave is energetic, charismatic and captivating. Constantly doused with his signature cologne, L'Air de Panache, he has great fun as the suave ladies man. He is also a perfectionist who expects nothing but greatness from his charges. He is effortless in his comic timings and action.
Gustave's greatest lover is the crabby octogenarian Madame D, played by Tilda Swinton, who with her Marge Simpson hairstyle, pale blue lenses and wrinkly prosthetics is enigmatic.
Her untimely death escalates the plot. Although none of the other cameo characters are particularly deep, they sometimes reveal intricate details in the most interesting and amusing manner.
The story co-written by Anderson and Hugo Guinness is inspired by the writings of Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig. But unlike Zweig's stories, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is treated as a comedy with a few unsettling moments. It also has sombre overtones in parts where it tells us the fate of the main characters.
Visually, the frames are impeccable, elaborate and opulent. They are breathtaking and yet silly at times. The scenes are framed in different aspect ratios for different time periods and the camera movement is dramatic.
The background score by Alexandre Desplat keeps the film moving at an invigorating sprint.
Overall, do not expect the film to be realistic, but within its own framework, the film is captivating and engrossing.