Note: Instead of reviewing movies as I see them, I will simply publish a new movie review every Friday with a movie that I have seen recently or one that is on my mind. I don’t know if I’ll be seeing a movie every week, but I have seen enough movies that I haven’t reviewed that I can fill in the gaps. Spoilers are contained below, so if you haven’t seen the movie, please feel free to come back after you have.
Wes Anderson’s movies are quirky and probably not for everyone. Sometimes they are a little too quirky and of the wall, but ultimately things seem to come together in the end. His latest movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, definitely meets this criteria, and is probably best enjoyed by fans of his work. While not his best movie – I personally think that The Royal Tenenbaums wins out – it was enjoyable and a fine piece of film making.
Like many of Anderson’s movies, the story takes place in a fictionalized version of our world: The Grand Budapest Hotel is in the Republic of Zubrowka, a “European alpine state” that appears to be located in the Eastern Bloc in this world, as it is rife with war and poverty. The hotel was once grand, but is now old and run down, and the story centers on Young Writer (Jude Law) seeking out some history about the hotel. He meets the hotel’s current owner Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who tells him the story of how the hotel came to be in its current state.
Mr. Moustafa’s story focuses on M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the hotel in its heyday, and a young lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) who is learning from the master. Gustave is very popular with the wealthy elderly guests of the hotel, alluding to numerous sexual liaisons with many of them. When one of his frequent guests, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) dies shortly after leaving the hotel under mysterious circumstances, Gustave heads to her wake with Zero to pay his respects and learns that he has been bequeathed the famous priceless painting “Boy With Apple” in Madame D.’s will.
This creates some anger among the members of Madame D.’s family, led by her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), all of whom were expecting to get the painting for themselves, and they conspire to keep the painting from Gustave. With help from Madame D.’s staff, they manage to make off with the painting during the night, and on the way back to the Grand Budapest, Gustave agrees to share the proceeds to the painting with Zero as a thanks for helping him remove the painting, making Zero his heir in the process. Shortly after arriving back at the hotel, Gustave is arrested and charged with the murder of Madame D.
Once Gustave is in prison, the prototypical Wes Anderson movie really begins. Zero helps break Gustave out of prison, and they both head around various locales of Zubrowka searching for the one man that knows the truth about Madame D.’s death. As is typical with many of his movies, Anderson uses miniatures to show the characters climbing mountains and doing various other tasks in pursuit of the mysterious Serge X at a mountaintop monastery. Unfortunately, Zero and Gustave are followed by Jopling (Willem Dafoe), who was hired by Dmitri to kill Gustave (and others) to complete the cover-up of his mother’s death. Serge is killed by Jopling, who then flees on skis from the monastery. Zero and Gustave give chase on a sled, and Jopling ultimately meets his demise at the hands of Zero, who pushes him off a cliff in order to save Gustave.
In the end, after a ferocious gun fight at the hotel, Gustave is cleared when another will is found stowed away on the painting, and Gustave inherits the hotel from Madame D. He is later executed after the “Communists” take over Zubrowka, at which time Zero inherits the hotel, and it is revealed that (shocker) Mr. Moustafa is indeed Zero. He refuses to sell the hotel because it is a link to the best time of his life.
Like most Wes Anderson movies, The Grand Budapest Hotel is full of actors playing bit parts. If you have seen any number of his other films, expect to see people pop up for just a few seconds here and there. Jason Schwartzman, who got his start in Anderson’s Rushmore, shows up as the present day concierge of the Grand Budapest. Bil Murray makes an appearance as a member of the secret concierge society that helps get Gustave and Zero back to the hotel after he gets out of prison. Edward Norton plays Henckels, the police investigator surrounding the death of Madame D. It is easy to see that Anderson likes certain types of people in his movies and always goes back to them in subsequent films.
Similar to his previous movie Moonrise Kingdom, the “star” of the movie is young Zero. This would probably be considered the biggest role of Tony Revolori‘s career, and he acts admirably next to much more seasoned actors, including his many scenes next to Academy Award-nominated Ralph Fiennes. His performance, though one of many in the movie, was hard to forget.
If you have enjoyed Wes Anderson’s movies in the past, you will definitely get a kick out of this one. It is better than some – The Life Aquatic comes immediately to mind – but it is definitely not nearly as good as Tenenbaums or Rushmore. Anderson has a distinct style that many people do not like, but I tend to find his movies rather enjoyable. I encourage other fans of Anderson’s work to check out this movie if they somehow missed it when it was in theaters earlier this year.
Until next time…