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The Grand Budapest Hotel– Movie Review

Submitted by on March 7, 2014 – 5:02 pmOne Comment

Almost at the end of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a character comments about the elegant, sophisticated protagonist, saying something like: “I think his world had ended long before he entered it. But he maintained the illusion with grace.” It was an elegiac comment not only on the film itself, but on the man behind it, director Wes Anderson. Anderson creates nostalgia for worlds that never existed, and does it amazingly well. The Grand Budapest Hotel in fact acknowledges its own artifice through many layers of metafiction, but that reminds you a story doesn’t have to be true to be meaningful. And this film is indeed one of Anderson’s funniest, saddest, and most epic, all at the same time.

The film follows M. Gustave (Ralph Finnes), concierge extraordinaire of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a legendary alpine resort for the wealthy in the 1930′s. He is joined by Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori), the hotel’s Lobby Boy-in-training, who becomes Gustave’s personal valet and confidant. Gustave is lover to many of his wealthy, older female guests; when one of them (Tilda Swinton) is murdered, and Gustave steals a valuable painting that she has rightfully left to him, he and Zero must evade thugs and the police to prove Gustave’s innocence.

But from the beginning, almost the whole film is told in flashback: first, we see a punk-ish girl visiting the Eastern European memorial of a famous writer; then, the writer himself addressing an audience in the 1980′s; then, the same writer twenty years earlier, hearing the story from an adult Zero; and finally, the central events themselves.

The film is no doubt a comedy, but it is also Anderson’s most gruesome and tragic film to date. While all Anderson film’s have a pivotal moment where graphic violence and death barge into the playful world (like the river crossing in The Darjeeling Limited), melancholy is more deeply embedded throughout Budapest. Seeing murder, illness, depression, and war depicted in Anderson’s signature unremitting style is disturbing at times, but emphasizes the surreal qualities and unreliability of the narrative.

Ralph Fiennes is stupendous in the film. M. Gustave is a refreshingly original screen character- a charming, adroit, foul-mouthed, pansexual problem solver, though that doesn’t even begin to describe him. Watching Gustave maintain his cool at (almost all times) is the best part of the film. And only Fiennes could describe a jailhouse brawl so that butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

Of course, Anderson and his production team outdo themselves in dressing a pre-war mountain lodge. Even if you don’t like his films, they are always a visual feast, and Budapest is no exception.

Did you see The Grand Budapest Hotel? What did you think? Let us know in the Comments.

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