"The Grand Budapest Hotel" lets you have your cake and watch it, too
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody and Jeff Goldblum. Written and directed by Wes Anderson. Streaming on YouTube and Google Play. 100 minutes. 14A
(4 stars out of 4)
I love "The Grand Budapest Hotel" so much, I want to eat it.
This would not surprise writer/director Wes Anderson, whose title hotel resembles an elaborately decorated pink cake and who incorporates delectable pastries into his deliriously daffy plot.
Every meticulously arranged image by the Texas auteur is a visual treat and a comic delight — especially that pink-frosted retreat, which sits among the central European mountains of the Republic of Zubrowka, a place you won’t find via Google Earth.
The film stretches from 1968 to the present day, a chronology indicated most inventively by changing aspect ratios. The main narrative is set in 1932, ominously in between the two world wars.
The Grand Budapest’s doors swing open for many familiar faces: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Bob Balaban, seen in "Bottle Rocket" through "Moonrise Kingdom,"
Anderson’s previous films. But these portals are unable to keep out the agents of something very much like German fascism.
All the more reason why we need the civilizing ministrations of Monsieur Gustave H., the concierge of the Grand Budapest. Played by Ralph Fiennes, new to Anderson’s films and a casting coup, he’s a man of fastidious manner and reckless charm. Gustave pleasures his wealthy female clientele from lobby to bedroom, their age and decrepitude being no obstacle to chamber frolics.
He’s assisted in his official chores by a loyal protégé, lobby boy Zero, who is played by newcomer Tony Revolori, another bit of felicitous casting. So is Saoirse Ronan, another newcomer, who worried without cause that she might not be up to the task of playing a sweet cake baker named Agatha.
As mad as it all sounds, there’s an undercurrent of melancholy to "The Grand Budapest Hotel" that reveals how far Anderson has progressed from the studied irony of his early films.
Impeccable production design is a given with Anderson’s films, but you can sense a maturing of the storytelling that began with "Moonrise Kingdom," Anderson’s 2012 childhood reverie.
When Gustave laments the slide of humanity, he speaks sincerely and across the decades.
I’ve always admired Wes Anderson’s films. This is the first one that truly touched my heart as well as my eyes.
Everything comes marvellously to fruition with "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the grandest of treats.
My fork, waiter, if you please!
(From "Movies I Can't Live Without," by Peter Howell.)