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GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, THE

SYNOPSIS:
The adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and his relationship with Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. Through an unexpected bequest by frequent hotel guest Madame D. Taxis (Tilda Swinton), Gustave becomes the beneficiary of a priceless Renaissance painting - which the Taxis family is determined to keep as part of its enormous family fortune. The ensuing chain of calamitous events take place against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent on the eve of war.

Review by Louise Keller:
Brilliantly conceived and executed, Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel is dry, droll and delightful. It's a treasure trove of wonders - visually and emotionally - with its stylised, colourful production design, bevy of interesting, quirky characters and top drawer star cast that bewitches at every turn. Inspired by the works of Viennese author and playwright Stefan Zweig, Anderson's screenplay has a constant sense of motion, the action gliding effortlessly from one plot point to the next, as it seduces us into its reality. I sat mesmerised throughout this wonderful, witty film; constantly surprised, uplifted, stimulated and amused. The smile never left my face.

Anderson pulls off a major sleight of hand in which he sets in motion the telling of the tale that spans 50 years - from the early 30s to the mid 80s - with Tom Wilkinson's author recounting his experiences at the Grand Budapest Hotel when it had 'descended into shabbiness' after communism. With the role of the younger author played by Jude Law, the scene in which he becomes acquainted with the hotel's mysterious owner Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) in the thermal baths, is unforgettable. Abraham will always be Salieri in my book (in his 1984 Oscar-winning role in Amadeus) and it is a treat to see him on screen in such a meaty role. It is over duck and carefully selected wines that the tantalizing story of how he became the owner is revealed.

The time jumps are seamless and as we are transported to 1932, we see the grand, elegant hotel at its prime - with chandeliers, a red-walled lift and matching carpets and whose decadence equates with a fairy-tale Schloss. I love the scene in which Ralph Fiennes' concierge Monsieur Gustave quizzes the young Middle Eastern refugee Zero (Tony Revolori in a career-making performance) as he aspires to be hired as the hotel's Lobby Boy; Zero's name is indicative of the experience, suitability and talents he is perceived not to have.

Sporting a dashing moustache and wry wit, Fiennes is extraordinarily good, holding our attention throughout as he carries the weight of the adventures yet to come on his shoulders. Fiennes is at his very best as the suave man who caters to his rich, older, needy, always blonde female clientele, seducing them in the process. His line about having to settle for 'cheaper cuts' after having enjoyed fillet steak (relating to the advancing age of his conquests) is classic. Couched at the heart of the film is the unlikely relationship between Monsieur Gustave and Zero, whose penciled-in moustache gives him an air of the ridiculous.

The exposition is fluid, running incredulously (and often ludicrously) from murder mystery with slapstick comedy elements to prison breakout story, all the while retaining an overriding sense of buddy movie tinged with melancholy. The cast is astonishing - at each turn there is another surprise - Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Léa Sedoux, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban and an almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton as an elderly blond hotel patron with cupid-bow lips and a sense of foreboding.

There is so much going on amid the atmosphere of the cobbled streets, funicular and snowy settings that our grey matter is kept on high alert in order to keep abreast of the action with all its absurdities, unexpected turns and serious delights. The mish-mash of accents work surprisingly well and Alexandre Desplat's liquid score is melodic and filled with the whimsy that the film embodies.

This is one of the most enjoyable films of the year. I can't wait to see it again.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Wes Anderson's whimsical epic is the latest manifestation of cinema as a fantastic place where anything is possible - and magic is real. Every single frame of The Grand Budapest Hotel is mesmerising, fascinating, surprising, fabulous, a stunning construct of colours and textures, the surreal and the visceral. The story and characters are natural extensions of his opulent vision, everything perfectly in tune and belonging to this special world. It is almost like the best of sci-fi, in creating a credible and fascinating world that is foreign yet familiar.

All this visual stimulation is wrapped in a story that has epic qualities, as well as audacious characters and wicked humour. Anderson uses the older Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) to tell his amazing story to a young writer (Jude Law) who has come to stay at the declining Grand Budapest Hotel, years after its glory days when Zero was Lobby Boy and M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) was the famous and fabulous Concierge, known and loved by all - especially rich, older ladies with blonde hair.

It is one such special older lady, Madame D. Taxis (Tilda Swinton) who by her death triggers the adventures that lead Zero and Gustave on a journey that includes prison, where they meet the escapist Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) several trains, where they meet the military officer Henckels (Edward Norton), confrontations with the furious Dmitri Taxis (Adrien Brody), the deadly, vaguely vampirish Jopling (Willem Dafoe) and other members of the grand old Concierge fraternity including M. Ivan (Bill Murray), M. Chuck (Owen Wilson) and M. Jean (Jason Schwartzman).

It is a tribute to the respect and admiration in which Anderson is held that so many of these stars appear here so briefly, some just one scene, simply to be part of this extraordinary film. As for Tony Revolori, he follows in the footsteps of young actors such as Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire and Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi whose singular debut performances launched their careers.

The action all takes place not around Budapest but in the once proud (and not far away) East European state of Zubrowka (buffalo grass vodka drinkers will happily recognise it) where Madame D's advocate (lawyer) Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) becomes collateral damage during the battle of the wills ... there are two.

Just as Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognisable, so are many of the cast, appearing out of their usual habitat. There are exceptions, including Fiennes, and also Saoirse Ronan as Agatha, whose innocence is contrasted by a birthmark on her face that looks like a map of Mexico, as Gustave puts it. She and Zero fall in love, giving the film its one genuine romance, although Gustave does call nearly everyone darling ....

This endlessly inventive film is thoroughly seductive for lovers of cinema, with sparkling dialogue - which is often as fast as the action - and a sensational score by Alexandre Desplat.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, THE (M)
(US, 2014)

CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Matthieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Léa Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Owen Wilson

PRODUCER: Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson

SCRIPT: Wes Anderson (inspired by works of Stefan Zweig)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert D. Yeoman

EDITOR: Barney Pilling

MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Stockhausen

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 10, 2014







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