An all-star cast checks into The Grand Budapest Hotel for Wes Anderson’s colourful farce. A tale within a tale the film begins in the present with ageing author (Tom Wilkinson) recalling the time he checked into the dilapidated Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictional Alpine region of Zubrowka in the late 1960’s. There his younger self (Jude Law) once met the Grand Budapest’s reclusive owner Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), a multi-millionaire who visits the hotel every year and insists on staying in the smallest room.
Zero recounts to the writer the story of his mentor Monsieur Gustave H, the impeccably mannered concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel back in its heyday. Played in a rare comic performance Ralph Fiennes like a swearier version of 50s matinee idol Dirk Bogarde, the flamboyant Monsieur Gustave is loved by the guests at Grand Budapest Hotel, particularly the female residents towards whose every need Gustave pays close attention too.
Gustave is particularly fond of 84-year old Madame D. (a heavily made-up Tilda Swinton) much to the chagrin of her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), a fascist with a menacing bodyguard (Willem Dafoe) who for some reason disapproves of his mother having intimate relations with a lowly concierge. A stolen painting and a murder throw Gustave’s life into chaos as both he and his trusty young lobby boy Zero (Tony Levoroli) are pursued across the Alps by police led by Henckels (Edward Norton). The Grand Budapest Hotel recalls classic screwball comedies from the early days of the Talkies when the Marx Brothers would make highly literate but delightfully silly movies like Duck Soup though this has an idiosyncratic charm all of its own.
Anderson’s highly stylised mode of filmmaking defies realism, instead relying on brightly coloured set design and a deadpan approach to storytelling. Characters in his films are usually eccentrics, all slightly crazy in their own way and often perplexed by the world around them. Though Anderson’s direction has a lightness of touch and his approach is comic there is an underlying melancholy usually taking the form of nostalgia for a lost time, place, or person. Dialogue is often hilariously absurd though delivered completely straight which makes it even funnier as in this exchange between two runaway children after a dog has been accidentally killed by a Khaki Scout with a bow and arrow in Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
“Was he a good dog?”
“Who’s to say? But he didn’t deserve to die.”
Other recommended films by this unique filmmaker include Rushmore (1998), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), and The Darjeeling Limited (2007).