Budapest caters to perfectionism

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 12:23 07/05/2014
grand budapest hotel

METICULOUS: Ralph Fiennes, left, and Tony Revolori star in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Directed by Wes Anderson
100 mins

Wes Anderson is less a film maker than an overly fussy caterer. Everything has to be just right - from the elaborate set design to the carefully selected ensemble cast and soundtrack.

In fact, he's such a perfectionist, I wouldn't be surprised if he identifies with Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the protagonist of his latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It's 1932, and the fictional Eastern European province of Zubrowska waits to be invaded and annexed by the fascist Zig Zags.

The perfectionist concierge Gustave is more concerned with ensuring everything is in order at the Grand Budapest Hotel, but after he is framed for the murder of a geriatric socialite Madame D (an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton), only his faithful lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) and his eccentric lawyer Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) come to his assistance.

He must fight for his survival, while ensuring everyone's meals arrive on time, and the rooms are clean.

From here, the plot spirals out of control - there are prison break- outs, police chases on skis, and the fate of a seemingly priceless painting in the balance - but typical of Anderson's films, it's all done with such meticulous style that none of it matters. It's held together by Fiennes' performance.

His Gustave H is the last of a dying breed. It's clear that his world of luxury is fading, but he's determined to keep up appearances. Even if that means reciting his frankly terrible poetry in the face of strife.

The rest of the cast - including Adrien Brody as a dim fascist, Willem Dafoe as a vicious hitman and Edward Norton as a pragmatic police inspector - get enough time to make an impression, but they're all pieces in Anderson's carefully constructed puzzle.

He complicates things even further by setting the story within a flashback - the older Zero (a weathered F Murray Abraham) is telling the tale to a nameless author (Jude Law) more than 40 years after the fact.

It creates a sense of intense nostalgia for a world that never existed.

True, the sets are as toy-like as anything in The Lego Movie, but there seems to be a genuine heart beating beneath it all.

Gustave and Zero's friendship is touching and unlikely, while the sudden outbursts of violence feel frightening rather than glib.

For once, Wes Anderson's elaborate eccentricity seems to have a point to it.

Book yourself a visit to this hotel. You might not want to leave. An unlikely delight.

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- The Timaru Herald

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