‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is Built by Wes Anderson

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CHICAGO – The distinct and strangely-alluring style of director Wes Anderson is on opulent display in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” In what is an eccentric, European style fairy tale, Anderson creates a legend that is forged in his signature, along with the performances of a brilliant cast.

What separates Anderson’s universe from other movie magic is in that wink-at-the-camera seriousness that he filters his characters through, which yields both a comic and quirky effect. The story of an unusual luxury hotel, run by a super-efficient concierge, flirts with the absurd and surreal passions that characterize Anderson and his particular obsessions. One of the great accomplishments of a filmmaker, over a number of movies, is to place ownership on their own universe. The Anderson universe vividly thrives under his masterful composition, whether seeing his point of view for the first time or throughout his short but memorable career.

The story of the Grand Budapest Hotel is told in a flashback through “The Author” (Tom Wilkinson), as related from through his book that tells the story. His younger self (Jude Law) first encounters the hotel near the end of its life, rundown and on its last legs. The Author also meets the odd owner, named Zero (F. Murray Abraham), who relates the pre-World War II saga of the unique destination.

Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori
Heckels (Edward Norton), Mr. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero (Tony Revolori) in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The pinnacle of the hotel was in the 1930s. The mountaintop location of the Grand Budapest belies its lavish experience, overseen by the effective concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). He takes on a young protege, the younger Zero (Tony Revolori), and together they bond over the care of the guests and the happenstances of life before the War changes everything.

The story ultimately isn’t as snappy as other Anderson expressions, but the design of that story is the beauty of the film. It is an adventure, involving the pre-WWII European design of train travel, old wealthy families, mysterious paintings, daring escapes and of course, love. It has roots in the intrigue of old movies in the 1930s and ‘40s, as the international circumstances of fascism began to infiltrate the old guard and threaten their way of life.

Fiennes is glorious as M. Gustave, a bizarrely obsessed man regarding the Grand Budapest Hotel and his liaisons with the elderly rich women who reside there. The key casting was Revolori as the young Zero, who becomes a Lobby Boy at the hotel and adopts M. Gustave as a mentor. Revolori has the perfect look and naive touch in Zero, and becomes a heroic reflection to his master just as the world of M. Gustave begins to crumble.

Anderson’s core cast of players from his other films – including Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwarzman, Bob Balaban and Owen Wilson – make appearances to decorate the narrative, and other familiar faces including Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel and an unrecognizable Tilden Swinton (as the main elderly rich lover) add magnificent context to the wild ride. Ronan (“Hanna”) is cast in the Anderson mold as the “serious girl,” who heroically attached herself to young Zero, and the legend of the hotel.

Ralph Fiennes, Saorise Ronan
Mr. Gustave Schools Agatha (Saorise Ronan) in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

There are some decisions about the how the story concludes, especially how loose ends are tied up, that quiets the overall symphony rather than blasts a final impression, but it really doesn’t matter. In this oft-kilter universe invented through the one-of-a-kind perspective of Anderson, it becomes about the journey, not the destination. As much as we want to understand the existence of the Grand Budapest Hotel, the reality of historic circumstances scatters it to speculative winds much as the war altered culture forever.

In each masterful shot and deadpan line reading, Anderson establishes a sensibility that is both comic and comforting, the type of film that feels like a wonderful bedtime story, soothingly told as an inspiration for the dreams to come.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” continues its limited release in Chicago on March 14th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan. Screenplay written and directed by Wes Anderson. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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