Ralph Fiennes plays the concierge known only as Monsieur Gustave H., a role that was apparently was originally offered to Johnny Depp, but he turned it down apparently preferring to appear in Mortdecai, a film that also involves a fancy mustachioed man character as well as some stolen art, although by most accounts a far inferior film to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Although The Grand Budapest Hotel would have been an actually good film for him to be in, I for one am glad he decided to stay on his current course because in the wrong hands, like say Johnny Depp going way over the top with all sorts of self-indulgent mannerisms, the role could have gone very badly. Luckily though the role went to a superior actor by the name Ralph Fiennes. Although hey if I'm some sort of person who does not think things through I could say Fiennes seemed like a strange sort because he's best known for his dramatic roles in films like Schindler's List and The Constant Gardener, well then I obviously must have not also seen his work In Bruges which might have been intense, but was also intensely funny.
Well Ralph Fiennes would knock off any foolish notions about his abilities in such a role from his opening scene where we see Monsieur Gustave H. doing what he's best at, running The Grand Budapest Hotel. Fiennes is ridiculously charming in the role as everything seems just a bit brighter when he's around. Everything about Fiennes's manner truly puts the pleasant in pleasantries as Monsieur Gustave H. goes from extending his love to one of his elderly female "friends", then proceeds to interview the new lobby boy Zero, while handling a various assortment of little things involved with the hotel. Fiennes makes Gustave the man everyone would want to be around as he brings such an innate kindness in every word and gesture even if he's technically being critical. There is such a spectacular grace that Fiennes brings to the role in his warm smile, and just that so specific and precise yet so perfectly light. Fiennes realizes brilliantly Monsieur Gustave H. as a man who technically is constantly putting quite a great deal of effort into his job as concierge of the Grand Budapest, but makes it look like an absolute breeze for him.
Fiennes though extends Monsieur Gustave H. from being just a great concierge but also turns him into a great man. Fiennes does not present Gustave's extreme courtesy as merely something he needs to do in order to fulfill his job, but rather he brings such a earnest quality to it that Fiennes shows it to be something that Gustave sees as the only proper way in which to treat another human being. The same goes for the scenes where Gustave reads out his poetry, or shows interest in Zero's own attempts at poetry. Fiennes brings such a genuine pride as Gustave speaks words, that not many people even seem to care about, but Fiennes infuses such a grand appreciation for the work that's something beautiful even if it might not be so under scrutiny. Of course Fiennes is even quite moving in his few moments where we see Gustave utter alone. In these brief scenes Fiennes portrays a sadness in Gustave. It is not that he's putting on a facade in the other scenes, but rather Fiennes shows that when not interacting with people while doing his job there is a pervasive loneliness Gustave H, that suggests that he technically does not have any other life than in the hotel.
Of course I have not even gotten to one of the most important parts of Fiennes's work here, which is that it is hilarious. Fiennes's delivery here simply is perfection here and makes every juicy line he is given sing just as it should. There is never a wasted second on Fiennes's part and is consistently getting every bit of humor out of any situation there may be. Fiennes just never misses a mark and succeeds in delivery every little bit of wit the script has to offer. Fiennes is kinda glorious in the way he gets so much out of the refinement of Gustave, making it so when it breaks, due to just a bit too much stress or due to a surprise occurrence, it is incredibly funny. One scene that I love in particular is when Zero comes to visit Gustave in prison, and questions an injury on Gustave's face. Fiennes is outstanding as for the brief moment he reverts to a bit of just anger as he states that he had to mark his territory in prison, so to speak, only to jump right back to his always charming self as he informs that the man he had the altercation with is now a dear friend. Fiennes, just like in In Bruges, proves himself so deft at comedy here you'd think was primary a comedic actor.
This is such ridiculously splendid work by Ralph Fiennes and it is best to describe it as such. Fiennes turns M. Gustave into such a endearing hero that you absolutely want to follow him through every moment of his wildly entertaining adventure. Fiennes is amazing because he not only is laugh out loud funny here, he also does manage to make Monsieur Gustave H. the representation of a better time, that the old Zero offer refers to him as. Whenever Fiennes breaks Gustave's personal style it is always at the right moment and in the right way. One of the most pivotal being when Gustave defends Zero from prosecution and Fiennes exudes such an innate decency in the man. The final act of the film eventually reveals the fate of Gustave where spoiler he was executed by a Naziesque death squad when he was trying to protect Zero. M. Gustave's death I'd say is actually one of the saddest film's deaths of 2014 even though we only informed of the fact off-screen. The reason being that Fiennes made Monsieur Gustave H. such a lovable, and joyful character that you can't help but feel something special was lost with his demise. This is just a marvel of a performance by Ralph Fiennes, and one that I loved every minute of.