Director: Wes Anderson
A writer (Law) encounters the billionaire owner of a rundown hotel (Abraham) and asks him why he still owns it, even though it is failing. The old man explains in flashback that when he was young (played by newcomer Revolori) he was the lobby boy at the hotel, under the watchful eye of the concierge M. Gustave (Fiennes). Gustave is a womaniser, often sleeping with his elderly guests, one of whom is the extremely rich and extremely elderly Madame D (Swinton). On her death, her most valuable possession, a painting known as 'Boy With Apple', is left to Gustave, much to the consternation of her children (including Brody and Dafoe). Contesting the will with her attorney (Goldblum) the sons set out in hot pursuit of Gustave and the lobby boy, who they accuse of stealing the painting and coercing their mother into rewriting her will.
Unfortunately, anyone who has been to see many films over Awards Season will have seen the trailer for this film plugged to death in the previews. It's not often that I critique a film and refer back to its trailer, but having seen the trailer an inordinate amount of times, every amusing or memorable line from the first half of the film appears in it. I can't help but wonder if the reason I didn't fall in love with The Grand Budapest Hotel is that I was unable to be swept up in this idiosyncratic world because its charm had already been spoiled for me. I love Anderson's signature quirk; Moonrise Kingdom, The Fantastic Mr Fox and The Royal Tenenbaums are charming and brilliant films, but for some reason this didn't strike that same enraptured chord.
There were moments that jarred - its style is such that it feels like a plush and eccentric children's film, but then the characters' frequently spilled out strong language, there's blood and there's violence and so it felt like it was losing that family-friendly charm at points. Throughout, Anderson was consistent with his dolly shots and angular pans as usual, but I just don't think it all came together as well to create that magical and almost childlike appeal that his other films have. And for a film entitled The Grand Budapest Hotel, much less of the film actually occurs in the hotel itself than you would probably expect.
Anderson is a superb filmmaker and though this isn't his best film, it is a welcome oddity in the usually bleak and dull spring release schedule. For people who haven't seen (or are not a fan of) Moonrise Kingdom, this may charm the pants off you, but I can't help but compare the two, of which this is definitely the inferior film. Maybe I just wanted it to be more like Moonrise Kingdom than it actually was, or maybe I just wanted Tilda to have more screentime, but when asked afterwards what I thought about it, I couldn't muster much more than a lacklustre "meh", which isn't the best sign really...