Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 40 min
Like the often featured courtesan au chocolat dessert, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a layered colorful sweet treat. It’s a visually stunning and detailed film, and loaded with a who’s who of top drawer acting royalty.
The Grand Budapest Hotel spans three-time periods, starting in the present, with a girl reading from a memoir about a visit to the hotel that occurred in 1968. This then leads us to the author of said memoir (Jude Law) and his conversation with the owner of the hotel, Mr. Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). The story then leaps further back to 1932 as Mr. Moustafa recounts his experiences as the hotel lobby boy, and his adventures alongside the concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). The details of which include; Gustave’s affection for wealthy older women, a death, an inheritance, a painting of a boy and his apple, several more deaths, prison time, courtesan au chocolat dessert and a blossoming romance between Zero and Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) – who makes the dessert.
There’s a fair amount to absorb that’s for sure, but Wes Anderson manages to pull this all together in such a way that it never feels hard to follow. The film is fun, layered and simple enough to understand. It’s also loaded with some great comedic performances from Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Tony Revolori as the younger Zero. The script is decent too, and delivers plenty of great surprises throughout the film.
My only complaint is with the casting of F. Murray Abraham as the older Zero. Not with his performance, just the casting. He was in no stretch of the imagination the older version of Tony Revolori. But that’s it – my only complaint. The rest of the film is great!
If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, you’ll likely be happy with The Grand Budapest Hotel. If this is your first Wes Anderson film, expect a quirky movie shot in a way you may not have experienced before. Wes Anderson shoots his material in a very deliberate way. He shoots flat on to the subject, with very little camera movement. When the camera does move, it’s usually a tracking shot directly toward or away or with the subject, or tracking left or right. If the camera does turn, it’s done very quickly to a fixed point. Usually to focus on whoever is speaking and it takes a little getting used to, but often enhances the humor in the scene.
Each time period in the movie is represented by a different aspect ratio suitable for the movie going era it’s set in. By aspect ratio, I refer to the width and height of the projected movie image. For the sections set in the present day, it’s set to the most popular ratio used today – 1.85:1 (nearly twice as wide as it is tall). In the scenes set in the 30’s, the ratio is 1.375:1, so almost square. For the scenes set in the 60’s, the ratio is set to 2.35:1. It’s a neat trick, and the movie is visually very interesting so a matinée screening is recommended. At home a HD viewing is the best way to go. If you watch this on a smaller tablet or smart-phone screen, you’ll likely miss out on a lot of the smaller details present in each carefully crafted scene.
Best Moment: << spoiler! I’m Serious! >>
When the hired killer Jopling (Willem Dafoe) throws Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) cat out of the window! Kovacs then walks to the window to find the cat spread-eagled on the pavement below – dead. Shocking, and completely hilarious!