Please enjoy your stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel



Legendary concierge Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) trains his protege, lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori), while escorting Madam D (Tilda Swinton), one of Gustave’s closest “lady friends,” and Igor (Paul Schlase). An untimely death sets off a series of events in which Zero becomes more than a mentee to Gustave.

Rami Chaudhry, Staff Writer

Some may roll their eyes at Wes Anderson’s stylistic choices and peculiar film direction, but it would be supremely unfair to disregard his latest effort, The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The film is Anderson’s eighth, and the result is perhaps the ultimate Wes Anderson experience, combining a broad spectrum of humor, distinctive directorial voice, and a surprisingly heartfelt story all with a backdrop of a serious and dramatically changing world.

The story is set in the fictional country of Zubrowka, as “The Author” (Tom Wilkinson) recounts the time he stayed at the titular hotel in 1968.  During his stay, he is introduced to the owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who recounts the days he spent working as the hotel lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori).

The film kicks off a bit too convoluted for some tastes but solidifies as the plot begins revolving around the young lobby boy and his newfound friendship with the legendary concierge of the European hotel, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes).  Gustave sees a bit of himself in the wide-eyed and optimistic young man, and mentors him in exchange for his loyalty.

Their strictly professional friendship is challenged when one of Gustave’s “lady friends” dies, and a priceless painting is left in his possession much to the dismay of her ruthless family.

What follows is an ambitious film that serves as a comedy, romantic drama,  and murder mystery.  Although at times the narrative may be too complex for its own good, the film is not so much about the plot as much as it is about its intriguing and lovable characters.  Gustave is a man of many inconsistencies; he strictly teaches his hotel staff proper etiquette, yet swears like a sailor.  He is a lover of poetry and also of the rich and elderly women who are guests at the hotel.

Regardless, Gustave is “a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity,” a line stated twice in the film, emphasizing his significance as a character in the midst of a world on the brink of war.

His character is extremely charming to watch, and his relationship with Zero becomes profound and touching.  In addition, stars from Anderson’s previous movies such as Owen Wilson and Bill Murray make humorous yet swift cameo appearances, while a violent henchman played by Willem Dafoe makes for a minor yet memorable character.

Another key feature of Anderson films are the picturesque environments that, when used properly, light up the silver screen.  The hotel itself feels alive and breathing, as the director gives attention to every detail in every frame of the film.  The film also creatively switches back and forth between a widescreen aspect ratio and the narrow, old-fashioned box dimensions of older movies with respect to the time period being depicted.

The scenes that are the most eye-popping of the bunch include a prison break with the use of small pickaxes and an absurd shootout in the open halls of the hotel.  Both make for humorous scenes, but it is clear that the film has an underlying and subtle sense of sadness and ruin.

The Grand Budapest Hotel juggles the task of being an entertaining comedy while also being a historical account of the very real threat of communism and fascism, even though the actual location of the film is fictitious.

Fans of Wes Anderson will rejoice for what may be his best work yet.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is a heartfelt story of an unexpected friendship between a mere lobby boy and a fabled concierge that also accomplishes the difficult task of being a serious and edgy historical account of a turbulent time in history.