The Grand Budapest Hotel is a hilariously quirky film that proves to be a fine addition to Wes Anderson’s growing filmography. Anderson crafts a clever story with sharp humor and subtle social commentaries, populated with interesting and unique characters that inspire great performances from a talented cast, especially Ralph Finnes. While The Grand Budapest Hotel may not be traditionally told and may not be for the average filmgoer, it is a well crafted film with wonderful writing and performances.
Wes Anderson has been accused of writing so called comedies that include his trademark directorial “charms” as opposed to actual humor. This is definitely not the case with The Grand Budapest Hotel, which proves to be humorous throughout, but doesn’t seek to overburden the audience with unnecessary jokes. Anderson respects the audience; he lets the natural humor of the film come out instead of making artificial humor that doesn’t relate to the film. Anderson also gives relevant social commentary on the state of humanity, but this commentary never feels preachy and always relates to the context of the story.
Ralph Finnes is, to say the least, incredible. Finnes gives his best performance since Schindler’s List, but also shows his incredible range as an actor in a performance different than anything he has ever given. Finnes is charming, suave, and manages to represent a very old fashioned sense of humor. His counterpart, Tony Revolori, is also fantastic in his comedic performance and manages to bring an emotional core to the film. The chemistry between these two is one of the film’s strengths, as these two actors manage to perfectly capture the magic of Anderson’s script.
Like many of Anderson’s films, The Grand Budapest Hotel boasts a strong supporting cast. The most major of these is Saoirse Ronan, who plays off the film’s two leads very well, but feels slightly underused. Edward Norton also has a more significant role and does a good job playing of the absurdity of the film’s situations. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe are also good as the film’s villains, but both come off as rather goofy. F. Murry Abraham, Jude Law, and Tom Wilkinson have important roles in the translation of the film’s story, and do a great job at representing the audience’s perspective. Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, and Harvey Keitel are all given smaller performances, but are all very good despite their limited screen presence. Owen Wilson and Bill Murry are decent, but both are given much too little screen time.
Visually, The Grand Budapest Hotel looks very good. The set and costume design are excellent across the board, with many funny set pieces including a particularly entertaining ski chase. The score by Alexandre Desplat is particularly great and worthy of award season attention. There are many great scenes captured by cinematographer Robert D. Yeomen, who manages to capture the beauty and humor of Wes Anderson’s world. The pacing of the film is well done and contains a consistent tone throughout and feels to have an appropriate length.
There are a few major flaws in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Firstly, there are a few moments of graphic violence and black comedy. These moments feel very out of place and distract from the film’s overall tone and consistency. As previously mentioned, certain characters such as those portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murry, and Owen Wilson are given too little screen time or character depth. These flaws are minor and overall are forgettable in comparison to the rest of the film.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful film that ranks among the best of 2014 so far. While there are some minor flaws, the film contains many great performances and an excellent screenplay. The world that Wes Anderson has created is an incredibly witty and engaging one that demands the attention of hardcore film fans and even the average audience member. Grade: -A