The Bock’s Office: Zany European exploits abound in ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’
April 17, 2014
If you go
“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” rated R
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody and Jude Law.
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
A story doesn't have to be true, moral or even make complete sense in order to be meaningful. If none of these things bother you, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" has a vacancy.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is no longer what it once was, but many years ago, it was the premier Alpine resort within the Republic of Zubrowka.
Circa 1932, the establishment has few equals in luxury accommodations, making it a desired workplace even for the lowliest of positions. As the new lobby boy for the business, young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) is eager to please, and his ambition doesn't go unnoticed by the hotel's concierge, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), well known for his devotion to all guests but especially those of the older wealthy female persuasion.
When Gustave's most beloved paramour (Tilda Swinton) is found dead, the reading of her last will and testament causes a schism between Gustave and the dowager's greedy family, led by her hard-nosed son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody). It isn't long before the Grand Budapest's best employee is inevitably arrested for murder, leaving his protégé, Zero, to hatch a plan to prove Gustave's innocence.
He's been in movies inspired by all the great British writers, from Shakespeare and Dickens to Ian Fleming and J.K. Rowling, but Fiennes' comic performances have been far and few between, and a showing like this demonstrates why that scarcity is a real shame. With flawless timing and delivery, he sweeps everyone off their feet as the debonair, Cary Grant-esque Gustave, who may be about 20 percent gigolo and another 20 percent conniving weasel, but 100 percent gentleman nonetheless.
Revolori is just as charming in a breakout role as the loyal kid for whom wearing a purple jacket and a sparkly bellhop's hat is somehow a dream job, ready to pledge his service wherever needed, be it to his unpredictable boss or to his fiancée, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), who seems no less lovely even with half her face covered by a birthmark shaped like Mexico.
Some familiar faces like Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe are peppered in among the cast, but even small parts filled by Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson are hardly the only indicators that this is a Wes Anderson film.
From the crisp dialogue and stone-faced appearance of his actors to the geometric precision of set pieces, the writer-director sticks with the exact same kind of tendencies that have made him famous, but "formulaic" is only an insult if you're talking about something that wasn't good in the first place.
Anderson doesn't achieve the rapturous sense of wonder that came from his best movie, 2012's "Moonrise Kingdom," but he's still on top of his game, creating a bizarre fictitious country all his own, with warm moments of love and friendship, as well as madcap segments that feel like they're straight out of a Marx brothers picture.
A priceless painting known as "Boy with Apple" may be the cause of much of the hubbub caused by Monsieur Gustave, but it's the borderline pornographic image that replaces it on the wall that will have you in stitches, along with nearly everything that comes out of Fiennes' mouth.
The fact that the majority of the characters speak in completely American accents only adds to the hilarity.
It's the story structure that weakens Anderson's tale, with more layers than "Inception" providing nothing, though the best of which involves an aged Zero (F. Murray Abraham) relating his life decades later to a curious writer (Jude Law).
The far-fetched, funny tone of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" overcomes its narrative flaws, with Anderson's knack for visual flair proving he's staying among the upper crust of today's cinema.
More noteworthy than anything, perhaps, is the message that anything can be accomplished by a man with a mustache. Even if he has to wake up early to draw it on his lip.