The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film which lives up to its name and appearance – big, brash, overblown and full of its own self-importance. This is not to say that the latest film from Wes Anderson – director of such off-the-wall offerings as The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – isn’t of interest. Indeed this wacky head-trip featuring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham and Adrien Brody is quite fun as it picks you up and carries you through a veritable rush of vibrant colour and madcap escapades, peopled by a seemingly unending cavalcade of eccentric characters. However this film is – like the sugar-pink confection of a hotel through which these individuals flit – just too much, resulting in an ultimate feeling of dissatisfaction.
Gustave H (Fiennes) was once concierge of the fabled Grand Budapest Hotel, the mountaintop European hostelry which was the place to be seen at during the 1930s. An insatiable lothario, Gustave seduced countless female guests, a pastime which landed him in some very hot water. This is his story.
Wes Anderson is one of those directors whose work is the ‘in thing’ both to like and to star in. Viewers (critics and general public alike) rave about his films – their subtle underlying currents, visual intensity and magical surrealism. All these factors are undoubtedly present in The Grand Budapest Hotel. From the interweaving stories which bring together the film’s bizarre cast (that includes a veritable feast of ‘A’ list stars) to the beautifully realised hotel and it’s otherworldly setting, his latest concoction is on the surface impressive. Dig deeper however and there is little of substance beneath its candy, cartoon crust, resulting in it being hard to find anything of depth to say about the film. Though there are moments of brilliance – one in particular reminding you of a scene from Roman Polanski’s exquisite The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) – in the end it looses any appeal through its expletive ridden dialogue and a group of individuals the majority of whom are unpleasant and lacking in redeeming virtues.
When reviewing a film I like, as a critic, to try and remain as open minded as possible – after-all it’s really up to the individual viewer to form their own opinion. Where films like The Grand Budapest Hotel are concerned however I feel unable to sit on the fence. Though entertaining on a purely superficial level, I ultimately find films which try too hard to be clever and ‘hip’ the complete opposite. With this in mind The Grand Budapest Hotel, to me at least, is like a large slab of gooey gateaux, of which the anticipation of enjoying it seldom lives up the actual experience.