‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’: It’s a trip
A 3.5-star review of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a Wes Anderson movie about an art-deco dream gone to seed.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ with Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton. Written and directed by Wes Anderson. 100 minutes. Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence. Several theaters.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, the title character in the enchanting new film from Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Rushmore”), is an art-deco dream gone to seed; a once-lavish creation that now has the particular sadness of a place that’s slowly fading away. Located in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka, it’s the quiet hero of a story that takes place in three different time periods; a trio of tales like a set of tables, each fitting under the other. (Actually there’s a bit of a fourth, too.)
We begin with a more or less contemporary author (Tom Wilkinson), looking back on his visit to the G.B.H., then flash back some decades to the ‘60s, where that writer as a younger man (Jude Law) talks to the hotel’s owner (F. Murray Abraham), who in turns tells a story from 1932, involving the legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his sidekick “lobby boy” Zero (Tony Revolori).
And off we go, on a caper that whisks us through train journeys across Europe, art theft, highly skilled pastry-making, a thrilling snow chase, imprisonment, romance, unexpected friendship, secret societies of hospitality employees and the discovery of a character named Monsieur Chuck — who is played, as of course he should be, by Owen Wilson. It’s all wonderfully silly, in a very Anderson-ish way: Every frame is carefully composed like the illustrations from a beloved book (characters are precisely centered; costumes are elaborately literal); the dialogue feels both unexpected and happily familiar. The main character — the sweetly wistful Gustave, who calls everybody “darling” — observes that his estate will consist only of “a set of ivory-backed hairbrushes and my library of romantic poetry,” and you don’t doubt it for a second; nor does it come as a surprise that his trademark scent is one called L’Air de Panache.
Anderson has assembled a wonderful cast, both newcomers (Fiennes, Law, Revolori, Saoirse Ronan) and regular Anderson repertory-company members (Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody), to whisk us through this adventurous bonbon of a movie. Along the way, we’re treated to a gentle whiff of nostalgia — the hotel, in the 1960s, seems to be vanishing into an orange-and-brown fog; a shadow of its former self — and a reminder of the pleasures of storytelling.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org