Watching a Wes Anderson movie is always an otherworldly experience. And that experience is not at all missed in his latest movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. The mere sight of the hotel in its posters and trailers had captured my attention immediately, and the scenic beauty along the whole movie that Wes painted is just fabulous.
The Grand Budapest Hotel uses a not dissimilar narrative stratagem, a nesting-doll contrivance conveyed in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-a-crucial-part-of-it opening. A young lady visits a park and gazes at a bust of a beloved Author, who is then made flesh in the person of Tom Wilkinson, who then recalls his younger self in the person of Jude Law, who then recounts his meeting with Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel. Said hotel is a legendary edifice falling into obsolescence, and Law’s Author is curious as to why the immensely wealthy Moustafa chooses to bunk in a practically closet-size room on his yearly visits to the place. Over dinner. Moustafa deigns to satisfy the writer’s curiosity, telling him of his apprenticeship under the hotel’s one-time concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes).
All of this material is conveyed in a beautifully packed Wes Anderson style with thoroughly composed and beautifully designed shots, with precise and very constricted camera movements.
Now, after Mr. Gustave take Zero (Tony Revolori) as his apprentice lobby boy and starts training him oaf many hotel manners, Zero journeys deep in the character of Mr. Gustave, whom he respects. It is to Zero that Gustave reveals the engine that drives his hotel’s wellbeing: his ready, enthusiastic appetite for servicing the intimate needs of thousands of aristocratic old ladies who come back every year. (In choosing to call his lobby boy Zero, Anderson may have been subconsciously influenced by Zero Mostel, a great pleaser of little old ladies in The Producers.)
Gustave’s greatest amour is the ancient and cantankerous Madame D (Tilda Swinton) with wrinkly prosthetics and strange pale-blue contacts to show her near astigmatic blindness. The infatuated Madame D infuriates her sinister son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) by leaving Gustave, in her will, a priceless Renaissance portrait belonging to her family. Gustave is thus to face the family’s fanatical attempts to disinherit this counter jumper, involving her butler, Serge (Mathieu Amalric) and Zero’s courageous fiancee, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), who works in the local Viennese-style patisserie, Mandel’s. Gustave calls on the assistance of a secret professional society, a bit like Jeeves in The Code of the Woosters. There are numerous cameos for all Anderson’s repertory players, and many more.
I am going with four out of five stars for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson doesn’t milk nostalgia, in the misty-eyed old Hollywood mode, but turns it on its head. We find ourselves situated in a roomy and delectable vision of the past, feeling oddly nostalgic for the present.