The Grand Budapest Hotel
Directed by Wes Anderson
Released March 28, 2014
It’s easy to recognize films by select directors. With Woody Allen, it’s his signature font, with Quentin Tarantino, it’s a certain style, and with Wes Anderson, there are a number of elements that immediately identify Anderson as the singular mind behind a project. The quick, purposeful dialogue, the colorful landscapes, anachronistic characters and references, and an ensemble of recognizable actors are all traits common to Anderson films. His previous film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” was a spectacular saga set in the United States several decades ago, and his latest film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” transplants its audience back even further in time for a truly outrageous story that only Anderson could appropriately tell.
The film begins by introducing a flashback within a flashback within a flashback, as a young woman comes upon a memorial to a famous writer, whose older self (Tom Wilkinson) recounts how his younger self (Jude Law) had the incomparable opportunity to hear the life story of one Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who begins his career as a lobby boy (Tony Revolori) at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowska. His mentor and the hotel’s concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) was a unique personality who, among other things, gave nightly sermons over dinner to the other hotel employees and went to bed with octogenarian hotel guests. The murder of one such elderly woman (Tilda Swinton) prompts a ridiculous adventure in which the young Zero becomes intricately and unforgettably involved.
There’s a considerable and familiar charm to this story film that defines everything Anderson does. His use of actors is excellent as usual, creating great parts for Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, and Harvey Keitel, among others. No part is too small to merit a terrific actor. Fiennes in particular has a fantastic time putting on his most high-minded and dainty air to portray the brilliant Gustave H to hilarious perfection. Varying accents, including inexplicable American ones, are used throughout this film’s journey through Europe, and for the most part, they all work. Adrien Brody’s Dmitri, however, feels out of place in a film built on such things due to the short and terse modern way in which he speaks. The film has a dark, violent, and deadly undercurrent to it that prevents it from being as satisfying and enjoyable as Anderson’s past works, and it ends on a strange and uncomfortable note. Still, there is a magic to it all, and this is one trip that can’t be repeated or recreated, even in Anderson’s next film.