Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness; inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig
Cast: Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, and Tom Wilkinson
Length: 1 hour and 39 minutes
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Description from IMDB:
“The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.”After a rich patron (Tilda Swinton) of the Grand Budapest Hotel is murdered, concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) becomes the main suspect; he, and his lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori), try to clear his name after stealing a painting that was bequeathed to M. Gustave. When he is caught, Zero plots to break M. Gustave out of prison with the help of the woman he loves, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan). She works at Mendl’s, which is an artisan bakery, and decides to help because of her bravery and love for Zero. As a conspiracy is unraveled, the trio do their best to set things right.
The story in The Grand Budapest Hotel exists on a few different levels. In 1932, Zero Mustafa becomes the new lobby boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel, and is being mentored by M. Gustave, the charming yet intense concierge of the hotel. This is the central story-line, but is being told to a young writer (Jude Law) who is staying in the Grand Budapest in the 1960s by an older version of Zero (F. Murray Abraham). The writer, in turn, is publishing his experience of hearing the story in a book as an older man (Tom Wilkinsin) in the 1980s; a book which is read by a young woman today.
The main focus of The Grand Budapest Hotel is the character at its center: M. Gustave. The concierge makes a conscious attempt to act like a gentlemen, but will sometimes break this façade and curse or lose his temper. He loves romantic poetry, fine things, the idea of being a gentleman, and perfume. In his vocation, he sees to the needs of all guests, but especially to women who are elderly, rich, needy, insecure, and blonde. The most integral part of the story that connects the layers of the film is the dynamic between Zero and M. Gustave; this changes as the latter comes to depend on the former. Though they begin in a master-apprentice relationship, the pair find themselves close friends by the end of their story.
Anderson is known for his symmetrical framing in shots, and it is very apparent in The Grand Budapest Hotel. It makes for a pleasant viewing experience and adds a bit of surrealism in its tidiness. This symmetry within frame is compounded by the fact that each layer of the story has its own aspect ratio and color palette. The story of M. Gustave makes use of pastel blues, pinks, and grays while the hotel is saturated with oranges and browns in the 1960s. The dialogue in this film is spoken quickly, despite the use of long, multi-syllabic words; it causes the viewer to pay attention to context and brings a feeling of antiquity to the story-line in the 1930s, though this is sometimes broken by more contemporary vulgarity. The violence and swearing are sudden, especially in the world of a luxury hotel that is supposed to be the pinnacle of posterity, but they don’t lessen the viewing experience as a whole.
Much of Anderson’s work has been described as “quirky”, and I won’t pretend to know what that means. There are similar themes and visual aesthetics that repeat in his films, but that becomes more of a signature than a detriment or testament to a lack of imagination. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a funny, beautiful, and entertaining film; it soon became one of my favorites for its originality, humor, and endearing story based upon identifiable characters. Ralph Fiennes really carries the film as M. Gustave, but that is how it is structured and, like his character, he maintains the illusion with a marvelous grace.
Verdict: 4 crossed keys out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of Wes Anderson films, people who enjoy watching Ralph Fiennes, fictional hotel enthusiasts, adults, and people who can keep up with fast-paced dialogue.
Not recommended for: Children, people who dislike Wes Anderson films, the asymmetrical, or those who can’t keep up with fast-paced dialogue.