Review of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Although the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” raked in a whopping $56 million at the box office when it was first released (according to Rotten Tomatoes) some remain unfamiliar with the film and the director Wes Anderson. 

It ranks at 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a feat for sure. The movie features many well-known actors and actresses, including Ralph Fiennes, most well-known as the actor who played Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Also featured are some very recognizable actors from their other popular films: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe. 

The film begins with a girl opening a book written by someone only known as ‘The Author’, a particularly unrevealing name. The book is about a grand hotel the writer once stayed at in Europe. This hotel is the Grand Budapest, now in shambles, but once beautiful and lively. He has met with the current-owner of the hotel, Mr. Moustafa, played by F Murray Abraham, or Zero, as he is called throughout the story’s plot as his younger self. Mr. Moustafa seems content and invites The Author to talk over dinner, as he explains his life story working at the Grand Budapest as a mere lobby boy. This part of the movie takes an interesting turn where we are taken into Mr. Moustafa’s memories and shown why they call it the Grand Budapest.

Years ago, Zero wanted nothing more than to be a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest. He meets Gustave, played by Fiennes, the most loved concierge to ever walk the halls of the hotel. In the film, Zero describes Gustave through narration: “Many of the hotel’s most valued and distinguished guests came for him. I became his pupil and he was to be my counselor and guardian.” We quickly learn a lot about Gustave’s charm and capability to run a beautiful hotel, all the while I was taken aback by Wes Anderson’s fantastic attention to detail. Even within the first 10 minutes I began noticing special camera angles, vibrant color schemes, and witty character discourse, all written and directed by Anderson. 

The film then takes off when one of Gustave’s most cherished hotel guests, Madame D, played by Tilda Swinton, is murdered and the police are inclined to believe Gustave was the culprit. Gustave and Zero take off but Gustave is inevitably captured and kept in prison as a suspect under the charges of her (still unsolved) murder. This whole fiasco was amusing, getting to watch such a gentleman interact with criminals. The whole time he spent in jail he kept up his lovely manners and crisp appearance. 

It also turns out that the Madame D, who has died at 84 years old, has left her most prized painting “Boy with Apple” which is worth a pretty penny, to Gustave, which enrages her family. Her son hires a hitman, played by Willem Dafoe, to track down Gustave and Zero. The chase begins as they run throughout Europe in the snow of winter. The best part of the chase was the outrageous costumes they’d both wear to escape, at one point even sneaking into a monastery dressed as two monks. 

The men head back to the hotel where they have hidden the painting “Boy with Apple” for safe keeping. The police are there waiting, as is Zero’s love, Agatha. They appointed her keeper of the priceless painting. In my opinion Agatha was a fresh character in the plot, but had a very small role in the whole film, a slight disappointment. 

The son of Madame D, Dmitri, who hired the hitman, shows up at the hotel and a gun fight ensues. They all meet at the upper level when the iconic lines are exchanged between Madame D’s son, Dmitri, “Where is Boy with Apple?!” and Gustave’s response, “None of your goddamn business!” this time Gustave and Zero are dressed as cake delivery men, a cute transition costume that really contrasted the scene entirely. 

Not wanting to give an spoilers about the end, the review will finish here. The most remarkable aspect of this film is Wes Anderson’s directing technique. He has always been known for his unique style, arranging color magnificently throughout one clip, getting wide shots and following the characters with the camera at distinctive angles for dramatic purpose. Just sitting through the first ten minutes of the film, I was already asking who directed it and checking the DVD box only to come upon Wes Anderson. I was intrigued by his style. 

Other films he has directed include: The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Bottle Rocket (1996) starring Owen Wilson, and just released in 2018, Isle of Dogs. I highly recommend renting “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for a night of loud laughter and good fun. Disclaimer: viewers must be 18 or older to watch, this film is rated R. 

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