THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson is chock full of Hollywood A-listers in both cameo and substantial roles and with Anderson at the helm, the result is a film so quirky and brilliant that you’ll want to see it more than once. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s best film to date, a wry, exceptionally well-structured 5-act Shakespearean dramedy. If you liked any of Anderson’s prior movies, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums, or The Darjeeling Limited, to name a few, then The Grand Budapest Hotel will satisfy you in a way that these previous gems just narrowly missed.
First there’s the superb M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), impeccably dressed with such dizzying attention to detail that Coco Chanel would be jealous. Gustave runs the GBH, set amid a coniferous-lined mountainside, always gorgeously blanketed with a light dusting of snow, so breathtakingly beautiful it looks like CGI. Anderson used more than one locale for the filming to get just the right feel for the distinguished and sumptuous backdrop to the movie. At the GBH, Gustave not only runs a tight, elegantly appointed ship, he has a cadre of patrons, all older, almost all female, who return to the GBH to partake of the amenities that only M. Gustave can provide. The young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), so called, he says, because after losing his family and home in the war — the movie is sandwiched between the first and second World Wars — he is nothing and has no one. Zero is hired by M. Gustave to maintain a specific role at the hotel, the actual description of which is unclear for while Gustave has a list of “don’ts”, it seems the lobby boy’s biggest “do” is to be Gustave’s personal assistant. Throughout the movie, we see Zero’s allegiance to Gustave unfold and grow in a variety of wry and often hilarious ways.
The entire story is told in flashback by the enigmatic owner of the hotel, a much older Zero (F. Murray Abraham), to the Young Writer (Jude Law), who is a patron of the current GBH. With it’s halcyon days behind it, a skeleton crew running it, and very few guests, the GBH is still going, maybe not strong, but going. Abraham invites Law to join him for dinner and over many courses, unravels the beguiling history behind the hotel. After one of Gustave’s favored patrons, Madame D. (a sublime Tilda Swinton) is murdered, Gustave travels to Madame D’s side because, “she needs me,” meaning, he needs to make sure 1) she looks good and 2) to find out whether she left him a little something in her will. At the reading, the lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) announces to the family that Madame D. has left Gustave the priceless painting, “Boy With Apple” which, according to Gustave, they had admired together many times. Chaos ensues as the heirs, led by Madame D’s son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody) along with his henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe), try to reclaim what they believe is rightfully the family’s. The film is full of fabulously quirky observations such as when Gustave views the dead body of Madame D, examines her nail polish and expresses approval for the new color because even in death, style and elegance are paramount.
My favorite line in the movie is Gustave’s, spoken during a moment when he and the Lobby Boy are trying to puzzle out the mystery behind the dilemma Gustave finds himself in:
“The plot thickens, as they say. Why, by the way? Is it a soup metaphor?”
I absolutely will not tell you what mess they are in as the film is all to methodical to spoil, but I will say that I frequently laughed out loud throughout the movie. Anderson’s usual themes of abandonment, trouble with authority, and overarching loyalty in the face of adversity are all present. The cast goes on and on: Harvey Keitel, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and a host of others makes this film feel like summer camp for A-Listers The Grand Budapest Hotel is not for everyone. My mother thought it was weird, but she’s 80 and subtle, facetious humor is often lost on her. Me, I thought it was brilliant.
Pam Lazos 5.6.14