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The Grand Budapest Hotel

15 Mar

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’: Ambitious structure overwhelms Anderson’s quirk

By Tom Meek
March 14, 2014


Wes Anderson’s latest is a series of stories within stories. It begins in 1985 with a middle-aged writer (Tom Wilkinson) taping a testimonial about the inspiration for his cherished book, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (the script is based on the writings and life of Stefan Zweig, who did write such a titled book) and jumps back to 1968, with the writer now played by Jude Law cooling his heels in the hotel on the Austrian border in a fictional country. It is there that he meets the hotel’s reclusive owner, a Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), and is invited to dinner in the grand ballroom – which isn’t so grand anymore, but a tired reminder of more resplendent times. The rest of the hotel is similarly worn, and there are few guests. The author and the owner happen to be the only two eating in the vast hall.

031414i The Grand Budapest HotelFrom there Moustafa tells how he became the owner, as there lingers some mystery and controversy how he took ownership and who the owner was before him, and so we zip back to a prosperous time between the two Great Wars when the mountain-perched hotel was a destination for Europe’s rich and famous. Moustafa is then just a bellhop named Zero (Tony Revolori) and the hotel is ornate and thriving under the management of a very fastidious and fickle concierge named H. Gustave M. (Ralph Fiennes), who goes to no end to please his guests, which includes sleeping with and carrying on with many elderly women – even though his predilection is more for those of his own sex. One such pampered guest (Tilda Swinton) dies and in her will bequeaths Gustave a priceless painting (“Boy with Apple”), which doesn’t sit well with her avaricious progeny (Adrien Brody) who accuses Gustave of murder to get what he feels is rightfully his. This serves as Anderson’s jumping-off point, as Gustave gets relegated to an impregnable prison and the Second World War begins to break, sending ripples of chaos throughout the small, in-the-way country. Through it all, the patient, resourceful Zero continues to serve his master.  Continue reading