Fiennes shines in sterling cast
Unlike many people I know, I'd be lying if I told you I had been really looking forward to The Grand Budapest Hotel (M).
My relationship with its maker Wes Anderson can best be summed up by that quaint old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt."
When Anderson first made a splash with Rushmore, I was transfixed. Starring Bill Murray, Rushmore was a bittersweet, funny, romantic, original wonder. I loved it and I loved Anderson too.
He bowled me over again with his follow-up, The Royal Tenenbaums, which was even funnier and a fabulous example of ensemble filmmaking. I was pretty much convinced the guy could walk on water, and felt that way right up until the day I saw The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
Inspired by Jacques Cousteau, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou had a cast to die for. Anderson regulars Murray and Owen Wilson were back and were joined by stars like Cate Blanchett, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston and Jeff Goldblum. It should have been outstanding but instead it was a self-indulgent and tiresomely quirky dud.
Despite my disappointment and disillusionment, I decided to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and went to see his next film too. The Darjeeling Limited was colourful but forgettable and left me, and I suspect others, with the distinct impression that Anderson was, creatively speaking, a spent force.
I am delighted to report that The Grand Budapest Hotel proves I was wrong and that clearly I am a fool for not seeing his two previous films, The Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. Starring Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H, a superstar in the world of concierges, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a riot of colour, humour, visual splendor, warmth and, yes, quirkiness.
The story follows Gustave's endearing friendship with the hotel's lobby boy Zero, played as a young man by Tony Revolori and as an older one by F Murray Abraham. Gustave mentors Zero in both his professional and personal lives and together they embark on an adventure after the death of one of the hotel's most regular and wealthy guests.
The Grand Budapest Hotel boasts quite simply some of the world's finest acting talent. The eclectic Fiennes is in terrific form as the charmingly unconventional Gustave. It's the most entertaining role I've seen him in since the brilliant In Bruges.
Revolori, meanwhile, is the perfect deadpan foil. Joining them on screen are Dafoe, Murray, Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Ed Norton and, under a tonne of make-up, Tilda Swinton.
The film looks gorgeous; Anderson makes superb use of colour and some of the most wonderful interiors ever committed to film.
In its more fantastical parts it resembles a beautifully illustrated children's picture book.
The writing is light, fun and funny and you get the feeling everyone on screen is pleased to be there.
For some The Grand Budapest Hotel will be a little too off the wall. For everyone else it's a genuine cinematic treat.
BOTTOM LINE Unique and rather special. ★★★★
Also screening: The Lego Movie (PG) So much better than expected. ★★★★