Review: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

The word visionary is tossed around a lot in the film industry, but in recent years, its meaning has changed.

Visionary is now used to describe any director whose films have a distinct look, instead of some sort of miracle worker.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the latest and most ambitious from hipster icon and visionary Wes Anderson and is inspired by the writings of Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Zweig.

Jumping back and forth between four separate timelines, the film takes place in the fictional country of Zubrowka and centers around the exploits of Monsieur Gustave H., the hotel’s concierge.

The film opens on a young girl with a book, admiring a monument to the book’s author in a cemetery in the present.

It then jumps to 1968, where we see Jude Law as the younger version of the author wandering the grand spaces of the Grand Budapest Hotel.

There, the author meets the hotel’s former owner Zero Moustafa, played with aged melancholy by F. Murray Abraham.

As Zero tells the author the story of how he came to own the hotel, we move back in time to 1932 when Zero, played by Tony Revolori was just a young lobby boy.

After Zero proves himself impressively useful to M. Gustave, they begin a mentor-mentee relationship that forms the movie’s backbone.

The rest of the story, which I will refrain from divulging in great detail in an attempt to preserve the film’s magic, moves forward from there into areas of mystery, murder, adventure and desserts.

Aside from Anderson’s storytelling abilities, which are in top form here, the film succeeds, much like his others, because of its cast.Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave is a particular revelation of comedic timing, rapid-fire delivery and – most importantly – heart.

Another reason “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is exceptional and stands as an achievement for Anderson is because it feels like the sort of film Anderson was destined to make at this point in his career.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is like a recipe of Anderson’s film history.

On display in “Hotel” are tonal homages to an odd assortment of films ranging from Jean Renoir’s “La Grande Illusion” to the earliest of film’s creations.

There’s even a little bit of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” present.

No longer is Anderson colorfully imitating the look and feel of the films he’s always loved.

He’s making films that are a unique amalgamation of a life of cinematic appreciation.

Despite its cartoonish execution, it is, without a doubt, Anderson’s darkest film to date.

In fact, at times, it is genuinely terrifying.

But it is in that colorfully portrayed darkness that Anderson shows us the realism of time passing by, moving forward, stopping and beginning again.