The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

Posted: March 30, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

o-GRAND-BUDAPEST-HOTEL-POSTER-570Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In June of 2012, I went to my local multiplex and saw a movie called Moonrise Kingdom, from director Wes Anderson. At the time, I had never seen any of Anderson’s other films, but Moonrise Kingdom looked too awesome to ignore. Sure enough, I loved the film and it ended up being one of my favourites that year. We now come to March of 2014 and circumstances are quite different. While I haven’t seen all of Anderson’s films now, I have seen most and the man is one of my favourite contemporary filmmakers thanks to his unique style, sense of humour, stories, and characters. A new Anderson film is an exciting thing, and this was especially true of The Grand Budapest Hotel thanks to its hilarious trailers and enormous cast.

The bulk of the plot takes place during the 1930s in the fictional European country of Zubrowka. Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) is the owner and manager of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a luxurious hotel which features strict rules for employees but the utmost service for clients. Gustave has a reputation for the affairs he has with the elderly women who stay at the hotel. One of these women is Madame D (Tilda Swinton), who after leaving the hotel suffers a suspicious death shortly after. Gustave and his lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) travel to the deceased’s home to pay their respects. However they quickly discover Gustave has been added Madame’s will, making him an enemy to Madame’s family, particularly her son Dimitri (Adrien Brody). Dimitri makes it his goal to bring Gustave down, whether that means framing him for Madame’s murder, or by having his henchman J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe) take Gustave out permanently.

One of the most striking things about The Grand Budapest Hotel is the general look of it. The art direction is particularly impressive. The hotel itself is very well-designed, as are the other locations characters visit, such as Madame D’s mansion and a mountaintop monastery. The sets find a good balance of being very colurful and fantastical, while still feeling as though they are from the 1930s. Beyond that, the sets are just immaculate in their designs and it’s very enjoyable to explore them. The film also uses old-school techniques like miniatures and matte paintings, which is a lot of fun. Robert Yeoman is once again back as the cinematographer and his careful composition comes through. It isn’t exactly a revolution of Anderson’s style, but he does expand on it and the film does have a lot of memorable imagery.

The film is also very funny. Much of the humour comes from the visual gags and eccentric characters that Anderson is known for. These bits work very well, but what really shocked me is the vulgar dialogue. The characters mostly speak with an air of sophistication, but Anderson often undercuts this with profanity. In the wrong hands, this could have been horrible but Anderson really makes it work. Much of the cast deserve credit for how successful the comedy is. Ralph Fiennes is especially great as Gustave. He’s a very likable and charming character who cracked me up constantly. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe also give really strong comedic turns as the film’s central villains.

Much as I like Fiennes, Brody, and Dafoe, they are only a small sliver of the cast, which also feature the likes of Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray, and Harvey Kietel, among many others. All of these actors do a good job for the most part, and it was especially nice to see Jeff Goldblum again. Unfortunately, given the sheer size of the cast, most of the characters are not very well-developed. I wanted to see a lot more from a lot of these characters, but faces come and go so often it becomes frustrating. This wouldn’t be so bad if the lead characters were very well-developed, but they aren’t really either. Screen time is divided among so many different people that even characters like Gustave don’t feel as fleshed out as they should be. Because of this, I did not feel much attachment to the characters so their arcs left me a little cold. On top of that, the film does not offer any profound themes or insights either, so the journey proved a little empty.

I don’t want to come down on The Grand Budapest Hotel because I did really enjoy it. It’s a very funny film with a unique look, some memorable characters, and is overall a good time. But at the end of the day, it’s a film that rings a little hollow. The characters’ journeys don’t leave an emotional impact and the film never fully engages one intellectually either. Still, this is a very fun film, and it’s a kind of fun you won’t likely find at a multiplex again anytime soon. The fact is, Hollywood releases tons of films every year which are “just fun”. At least this one is made by a real filmmaker with real conviction.


  1. Caz says:

    It was really good to read your review on this film as I really wasn’t convinced with it myself. But I think that’s because I have not seen any of Anderson’s other films, which it seems I am massively missing out with Moonrise Kingdom as have now seen a lot of people raving about it. But it was also good to see that you found this one a little bit lacking, so you have convinced me to watch his other films!

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. It’s the exact type of movie we expect to see from Anderson; which is great for his legion of fans, but for anyone else who aren’t already followers of his? Eh, maybe not so much.

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