A handout photo showing (L-R) Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Courtesy: Fox Searchlight)
A handout photo showing (L-R) Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Courtesy: Fox Searchlight)

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel



The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray

Three stars

One of the many surprises in Wes Anderson's rich, layered and quirkily entertaining new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is the emergence of a new comic actor, one with impeccable timing and just the right mix of gravitas and utter zaniness.

Ladies and gents, meet Ralph Fiennes.

You might not immediately think the man who played the tragic count in The English Patient, an evil war criminal in Schindler's List, a violent Coriolanus, and oh, yes, Voldemort, would be a natural in comedy. But he proves a deft, daft partner to Anderson in their first collaboration.

The film itself is a madcap caper on one level. On another, it’s a look at a dying world, and way of life, in the period between the two World Wars, with the spectre of totalitarianism looming. Just like the fictional hotel in the title, the movie is a meticulously constructed confection, featuring the extreme attention to detail that Anderson is famous for.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in a spa town in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, somewhere in eastern Europe. It's a place where wealthy older women come to be pampered. That's where Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes) comes in. An old-school concierge, Gustave lives to please his customers. He is pernickety, pompous and vain. But he's committed to doing his job as well as it can be done. He's indeed a creature of a fast-disappearing Old World.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Or rather, behind ourselves, because the film hopscotches between three time periods.

We begin in 1985. A middle-aged writer (Tom Wilkinson) is recalling his stay at the Grand Budapest some 20 years earlier. Suddenly we’re back in 1968, in the hotel, which is a shell of its former glory — it’s an ugly, post-Communist relic with really bad furniture. That same writer (now played by Jude Law) encounters the hotel’s mysterious owner, Mr Moustafa (F Murray Abraham), who offers to tell him his story.

Which brings us back in time again, to the years between the wars, when the hotel looked like a strawberry-frosted wedding cake. Mr Moustafa is now a young lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), an ambitious lad whom Gustave takes under his wing.

The plot gets going with the death of Madame D — an 84-year-old, extremely rich dowager countess (Tilda Swinton, barely recognisable in amazing make-up) and the former lover of Gustave. Turns out she’s left him a priceless painting. But her imperious son Dmitri (Adrien Brody having fun here) won’t have this smarmy concierge get a piece of the family fortune. Gustave swipes it anyway.

Gustave is eventually caught and sent to prison camp, where, with a fellow inmate (Harvey Keitel, no less), he plots escape. They make it out, leading to more amazing chases — motorcycles, a mountain cable car, a ski jump and a bobsleigh run — and a confession booth in a monastery. There’s a wild shoot-out across hotel balconies. And there’s the funniest scene in the film, a montage of old-world concierges across Europe, banding together to try to help Gustave.

You’ll spot the Anderson regular Bill Murray here, as well as Jason Schwartzman and, in a quick moment, Owen Wilson. Edward Norton is funny as a determined military police chief. Willem Dafoe is Dmitri’s ultra-violent henchman, and Jeff Goldblum the unfortunate lawyer who runs afoul of him. Saoirse Ronan is young Zero’s girlfriend.

But in the end it’s Fiennes who makes the biggest impression. His stylised, rapid-fire delivery and dry wit keep the movie bubbling along. Here’s to further Fiennes-Anderson collaborations.

Florida: The critical Sunshine State

Though mostly conservative, Florida is usually always “close” in presidential elections. In most elections, the candidate that wins the Sunshine State almost always wins the election, as evidenced in 2016 when Trump took Florida, a state which has not had a democratic governor since 1991. 

Joe Biden’s campaign has spent $100 million there to turn things around, understandable given the state’s crucial 29 electoral votes.

In 2016, Mr Trump’s democratic rival Hillary Clinton paid frequent visits to Florida though analysts concluded that she failed to appeal towards middle-class voters, whom Barack Obama won over in the previous election.

Everybody Loves Touda

Director: Nabil Ayouch 

Starring: Nisrin Erradi, Joud Chamihy, Jalila Talemsi

Rating: 4/5

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

Sinopharm vaccine explained

The Sinopharm vaccine was created using techniques that have been around for decades. 

“This is an inactivated vaccine. Simply what it means is that the virus is taken, cultured and inactivated," said Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, chair of the UAE's National Covid-19 Clinical Management Committee.

"What is left is a skeleton of the virus so it looks like a virus, but it is not live."

This is then injected into the body.

"The body will recognise it and form antibodies but because it is inactive, we will need more than one dose. The body will not develop immunity with one dose," she said.

"You have to be exposed more than one time to what we call the antigen."

The vaccine should offer protection for at least months, but no one knows how long beyond that.

Dr Al Kaabi said early vaccine volunteers in China were given shots last spring and still have antibodies today.

“Since it is inactivated, it will not last forever," she said.

Essentials

The flights
Emirates, Etihad and Malaysia Airlines all fly direct from the UAE to Kuala Lumpur and on to Penang from about Dh2,300 return, including taxes. 
 

Where to stay
In Kuala Lumpur, Element is a recently opened, futuristic hotel high up in a Norman Foster-designed skyscraper. Rooms cost from Dh400 per night, including taxes. Hotel Stripes, also in KL, is a great value design hotel, with an infinity rooftop pool. Rooms cost from Dh310, including taxes. 


In Penang, Ren i Tang is a boutique b&b in what was once an ancient Chinese Medicine Hall in the centre of Little India. Rooms cost from Dh220, including taxes.
23 Love Lane in Penang is a luxury boutique heritage hotel in a converted mansion, with private tropical gardens. Rooms cost from Dh400, including taxes. 
In Langkawi, Temple Tree is a unique architectural villa hotel consisting of antique houses from all across Malaysia. Rooms cost from Dh350, including taxes.

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