The Grand Budapest Hotel: a Wes Anderson film. I usually don’t lead with the name of the director but Anderson has become the leading off-beat comedy film director and, generic with The Grand Budapest Hotel, treatment he hits a home run. The script is co-written by him, was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian Jew from the 1930’s who may have been the most widely read German author of his time. This zany tale takes place at the dawn of WW II in a fictitious Eastern European country located somewhere between Germany and Russia. (The movie was filmed in Gorlitz, Germany.) The lead character, M. Gustave, played marvelously by Ralph Fiennes, is the concierge and ruler of the Hotel. The movie opens in 1985 and the country is under communist rule. An elderly writer, played by Tom Wilkinson, recalls his visit to the Hotel in 1968 and his introduction to the Hotel’s owner, a Mr. Moustafa, played by F. Murray Abraham. Moustafa then proceeds to tell the then young writer, played by Jude Law, how he came to own the Hotel. The Hotel is the centerpiece of the story and the timeline morphs to the 1930’s where we meet Gustave and a newly hired lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), who plays the young Moustafa. Then the fun begins in earnest. Gustave reminded me of Max Bialystock of The Producers. Both romance older women and are financially rewarded. Tilda Swinton plays an 84 year old Madame D, who does not want to leave the Hotel because she has a premonition she will die. And she does. Gustave and Zero then head off to Madame D’s home where they meet her family, who are reminiscent of Marx Brothers characters with Adrien Brody playing Madame D’s son and Willem Dafoe playing the family hit man. There are also three bizarre sisters. As the inheritance story unfolds, the totalitarianism of the era presents itself with Harvey Keitel appearing as Ludwig and various prisoners and other characters played by Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson and Jeff Goldblum. Unlike many movies with star ridden casts, everyone stays in character. The 100 minute film moves at a brisk pace and you never know what oddity will happen next. There is an undercurrent in the film as to the reality that will befall the region where the Hotel is located, however, it is presented with irony, charm and plain old fun.
Steven Guttman, Esq.