The Grand Budapest Hotel | Wes Anderson | March 7, 2014
Family is at the heart of Wes Anderson’s films, including his latest – The Grand Budapest Hotel. Set mostly in Zubrowka, a fictional Eastern European blockade country, at the luxurious Grand Budapest Hotel in 1932, the film follows a cast of familiar faces (some Anderson regulars and some not) caught up in a madcap tale of greed and family that only Wes Anderson can manage.
Ralph Fiennes leads the cast as Gustave H., the head concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the early 1930s and a man who can out-Bialystock Max Bialystock when it comes to elderly female guests. He takes Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori) under his wing and trains him in the art of being a lobby boy, as he once started as a lobby boy at the Budapest and worked his way up the ranks. hat Gustave has at the hotel is nice: a non-traditional and expansive family, from the staff (which receives a daily “sermon” of sorts over breakfast) to his seasonal cadre of older women. Zero takes it upon himself to accompany Gustave on his journey to bid farewell to Madame D (Tilda Swinton buried under makeup and a wig), claim a famous painting bequeathed to Gustave, and free Gustave from prison when Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Adrien Brody), Madame D’s greedy son, frames Gustave for D’s death. He finds an odd father figure in Gustave, as well as a lover and accomplice in Agatha (Saorsie Ronan), the assistant of Mendl the baker. Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, and Jude Law round out the cast as Jopling (Dmitri’s hired hand), Kovacs (a legal executor), the older Zero, and a young Writer (who is also played by Tom Wilkinson), respectively. This is all set against the backdrop of war (strongly hinted to be World War II), and is aided by Anderson’s signatures of symmetry, title cards, and stop-motion/scale models, along with the aspect ratios that change with the decades.
The cast, as a whole, shines, regardless of how long they’re on screen for. Seeing Fiennes, Ronan, Dafoe, and Goldblum in an Anderson story is immensely pleasing, as are the glorified cameos. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but the first trailer pretty much gave away the whole cast. Alexandre Desplat’s score fits perfectly, thanks to the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra and the soundtrack of Russian folk songs. It is perhaps a stand-out score compared to his recent works.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a warm welcome back for Anderson and crew after a two year gap since the adolescent love-fest of Moonrise Kingdom, and I could certainly see myself re-watching it several times over. It’s not too cloying, doesn’t sink to self-parody, and has a little something for everyone. Plus, getting to see Anderson’s craftsmanship once again is a sight for sore eyes.