The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel ★★★★

Wes Anderson’s tilt at the ultimate upstairs/downstairs comedy is a lot of fun, but falls a little short of his best work. I think the main weakness is structural. It is framed around a tale told by a sad old man to an impassive writer, which projects and expands out through a large cast and across an increasingly bonkers story, only to finish back where it started. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the tale that is told is high farce, and the pathos that is sought through the bookended structure feels flat. For the most part it is a rambling and madcap adventure story, but the old man’s reminiscences seem to be striving for a sympathy that the farce has little interest in supporting.

On the upside, however, the Wes Anderson attention to detail is all there, with wonderfully inventive models and animation combining brilliantly and beautifully with the live action. I always walk out of his films feeling that my existential need for symmetry has been satiated. Alexandre Desplat’s score nicely supports the farce’s fleet footed scamper, setting the pace and constantly chugging it along. The large, dream cast is a joy, although some of their characters feel a little thinly sketched. But there is no such problem for Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H, a wonderful creation: urbane, discrete, potty mouthed and flirty – and quite the (elderly) ladies’ man. Fiennes plays it beautifully, with a lovely air of refinement mixed with absurdity.

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