Sometimes it takes a small movie to showcase the extraordinary talents of an actor we sometimes take for granted. Such is the “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and Ralph Fiennes. Directed by Wes Anderson, inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig, with screenplay by Anderson and story by Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Budapest Grand Hotel is the story of the hotel’s concierge, M. Gustave (Fiennes), and his delightful relationship with the lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori).
The tale is told through the eyes of a variety of narrators—the Young Writer, (Jude Law) who in his later years is portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, and Zero, played in his adult years by F. Murray Abraham. The Writer interviews Mr. Moustafa, now the hotel’s owner, in the 1960s, and wonders why he’s kept the hotel all these years, since it no longer is doing much business. Mr. Moustafa then proceeds to fill him on the hotel’s back-story and why the hotel holds so much meaning for him.
In the 1930s, the hotel was in its zenith, but these were to be the last few years of its grandeur. At the time Gustave was its concierge extraordinaire. He was a mentor and hero to Zero, and the two were very close…almost like father and son. Gustave treated all guests like royalty. He was especially “kind” to the older women, one of whom took a special liking to him, an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, as Madame D. She dies mysteriously and at the reading of her will, it’s announced that she has left a very valuable painting, Boy With Apple, to Gustave, angering her family a great deal. Gustave takes possession of the painting and with the help of Zero, makes his way back to the hotel with it and puts the painting in the hotel safe. For his help, Gustave makes Zero his heir. Gustave’s happiness is short-lived when he is arrested and imprisoned for Madame D.’s murder. The rest of the film deals with Gustave’s imprisonment and escape.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is full of Wes Anderson’s company of actors…some having larger parts than others. Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, and Jeff Goldblum are especially terrific. But the real stars of this film are Fiennes, Tony Revolori, the cinematography, the dialogue and the lyrical score.
Fiennes has a way with the rapid-fire dialogue that is hysterically fantastic. It’s a side to him that we rarely, if ever, see and it is most welcome and absolutely makes “The Grand Budapest Hotel” the success it is. Tony Revolori, as his deadpan sidekick, is quite good and his scenes with Fiennes positively crackle.
The art and set direction are magical. It’s like watching a toy factory full of dolls, trains, and toy soldiers come to life. And the pastries…they are stunning. Completing the picture is Alexandre Desplat’s music,as light and mischievous as the dialogue it accompanies.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is not all sunshine and lollipops. The film is set against the backdrop of the horrors that are yet to come to Europe. And while fun to watch, one can’t help notice the difference between the have’s and have not’s. It’s to Anderson’s credit that he is able to incorporate all of this creditably.
Wes Anderson’s films are often described as “precious”… a bit too cute. That criticism may have some merit, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has less “cuteness” than his other works. And that is what makes “The Grand Budapest Hotel” even more delightful and a place you will want to visit.