The Grand Budapest Hotel

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Published 4 years ago -

Review by Dan Geddes


Ralph Fiennes … M. Gustave

Murray Abraham … Mr. Moustafa

Mathieu Amalric … Serge X.

Adrien Brody … Dmitri

Willem Dafoe … Jopling

Jeff Goldblum … Deputy Kovacs

Harvey Keitel … Ludwig

Jude Law … Young Writer

Bill Murray … M. Ivan

Edward Norton … Henckels

Written and Directed by Wes Anderson

The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of Wes Anderson’s best movies, featuring a strong story “inspired” by the works of Stefan Zweig. Grand Budapest Hotel contains the usual Wes Anderson artifice and production values, but this time they serve the story well rather than appear for their own sake (as, arguably, is the case for other Anderson films).

Through a story within a story device, Grand Budapest Hotel is the struggle for the great fortune of Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who leaves part of her fortune (a valuable painting) to M. Gustave, the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel (in the fictional country of Zubrowka during the 1930s), which Madame D. frequents. Gustave was her friend and lover (as for other wealthy older blonde women)  though forty years younger.

Madame D’s eldest son, Dmitri (Andrien Brody), asks the police to arrest Gustave, claiming that he killed her. He’s just eliminating him as a competitor for his mother’s fortune. The family lawyer Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) suggests there are hints that Madame D. left a second will which cannot be located. Dmitri also hires the frightening-looking Jopling (Willem Dafoe) to hunt down any other enemies or obstacles to his inheriting his mother’s fortune.

Most of The Grand Budapest Hotel is told from the perspective of Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who was a young lobby boy called Zero (Tony Revolori) at the time of the story (in the 1930s), but thirty years later tells the story to a young writer (Jude Law), while they both are staying in the Budapest. The story-within-a-story framing shows a young woman reading the book The Grand Budapest Hotel in present times (similar to The Royal Tenenbaums which begins with someone checking the book out of the library).

Grand Budapest Hotel sparkles with humor. Gustave is a fop who fluently praises even unsavory things until he runs out of steam and repeatedly degenerates into coarse language. Fiennes has impeccable timing and carries the movie along. Tony Revolori as Zero gives a strong performance. It’s an amazing cast with Dafoe, Norton, and Abraham as standouts; Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are there for the sake of tradition.

Grand Budapest Hotel is action-packed, with the sinister Jopling hunting down innocent characters, an amazingly complicated and Anderson-esque prison break, and an exhilarating ski chase scene.

Anderson framing the movie as a literary adaptation, told long after the events, allows him room for exaggeration, for humorous (and magical realistic) effect.

The production design is as lush and bursting with details as any Anderson film, so it’s fun to look at. The level of detail can only be fully appreciated via DVD freeze-frame.

Dan Geddes
10 May 2014

See also reviews of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom.

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