A Tale of a Bellboy, a Concierge, a Murder and a Hotel (Spoilers)…
On a hotel’s well-loved concierge and his friendship with a bell boy through thick and thin.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Official International Trailer HD, FoxSearchlight and photos © Fox Searchlight Pictures
For this blogathon celebrating the written and directing work of Wes Anderson, I’m reviewing the Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). I’ll confess on first hearing the title of this film from darlin’ husband, I thought it was a sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) starring a cast full of British National Treasures including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy.
I, therefore, was happily surprised to learn it wasn’t a British thespians convention – as that type of film and TV really isn’t my thing apart from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011 ) – as the Grand Budapest Hotel was directed and written by the wonderful Wes Anderson alongside his oft collaborator Hugo Guinness.
This charmingly addictive film stars a plethora of this director and writer’s favourite cast members including Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. Alongside the newbies in the cast of Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton and Saoirse Ronan. I used to be terrified of Tilda Swinton from her formidable almost frightening part in Burn After Reading (2008) seeing her as a scary kind of headmistress. But after seeing her terrific turn in Trainwreck (2015) she seems much more approachable and fun.
Anyway, I digress and more of that particular film soon. As darlin’ husband is a die-hard fan of Anderson’s film career to date, over our many years together we’ve watched and loved films such as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Rushmore (1998) and more recently the excellent Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
The Grand Budapest Hotel’s story starts in the present day with a tale where a young girl enters a cemetery, there she visits a statue decorated with keys for a man known simply as The Author. She opens a book written by him, named The Grand Budapest Hotel and starts to read leading to the Author’s story. We then cut to 1985 where Tom Wilkinson as the older The Author, tells how he came to write this biographical tale leading to Moustafa’s tale, the third story.
The Author’s story is then recounted by Jude Law who is seen as the younger Author, who in 1968 stays at the then run down Grand Budapest Hotel. This hotel is situated near Nebelsbad in the Republic of Zubrowka, which can only be accessed by a funicular.
When he stayed there, there were a few guests and as a new guest arrives the Author enquires about him. The man is revealed as the hotel’s elderly owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Moustafa informally introduces himself to the Author in the thermal baths and invites him to dinner to talk more…and tells the tale of how he came to own the hotel.
We then flashbackwards thirty years to 1938 in the hotel’s more opulent days, where the newly recruited bell boy, Moustafa (Tony Revolori) meets the then established, middle-aged concierge of the Hotel, M Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Moustafa is given a second interview and information about his job as they walk through the hotel. As they reach a room, it is suggested that in addition to his exemplary concierge role M. Gustave tends to all the needs of his elderly female guests – including those of a sexual nature.
He then leaves Moustafa to tend to the elderly Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis – “Madame D” – played by a barely recognisable Tilda Swinton. For this part, IMDB reports Angela Lansbury was originally cast but had to drop out of this role. It is seen that she loves him and she asks him to come away with her after he spends the night with her. Once her pleas are dismissed but his feelings reciprocated, she returns home.
A month later, after a report outlining a declaration of war is reported in the newspaper, it is also revealed that Madame D has died, and Gustave and Moustafa head off together by train to hear the reading of her will. En route, they bond and confide with each other, but are temporarily arrested at the border only to escape charges. The arresting inspector, Albert Henckel (Edward Norton) recognises Mons Gustave H. as a family friend and gives him a free pass to travel through the recently closed border.
At the reading of the will led by the family executor, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), Madame D’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and his family are upset to learn Gustave has been left a priceless painting. The pair take the picture and inadvertently take a confidential letter secured behind it. The widow’s family have Gustave falsely arrested for murder.
In addition, a family assassin has been dispatched and is stalking Kovacs. During Gustave’s incarceration, Moustafa falls in love and becomes engaged to a local baker Agatha (Ronan) and with both her help and four other inmates recruited by Gustave, his escape is planned.. meanwhile, Deputy Kovacs is being pursued by the assassin, J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe).
The visuals, props and costumes in addition are as transfixing and memorable as the huge array of acting talent with more than a few cameos to look out for. Anderson has not only recruited many familiar faces from his previous movies there are many surprising and wonderful appearances.
These are from a large number of well-known actors, who you can have fun spotting and who you will easily recognise. A handmade exterior model of the hotel was created as was the much desired painting. Anderson in addition created the newspapers used and their content. For the haunting musical score a balalaika – which is a plucked stringed instrument – was used.
This film as a whole is a delight to watch and the plot original and the authors inspired by the Austrian author, Stefan Zweig’s literature. Every film scene is lovingly orchestrated and directed and the acting delivered so effectively you feel you too are part of the intrepid pair’s adventures. This film easily deserved it’s colossal 11 BAFTA Nominations, leading to Anderson receiving those for Best Film and Director.
The film was also nominated for 9 Academy Awards and many Golden Globes too. As for the remainder of the film, this can be revealed on viewing but I can assure you the story continues to engage you through the many twists and turns to keep your attention throughout its final scene. An epilogue for each of the three stories is added here too. Epilogues are all to often are not included in movies in favour of an unwanted and unnecessary sequel. The inclusion of this was a lovely touch before the movie closed the hotel doors to us for the last time.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
The Wes Anderson Blogathon 2016, No 14
This film was submitted as part of the Wes Anderson Blogathon run by Sean Munger. Also with this cast, Bill Murray features in Lost in Translation, Tootsie and 5 Amazing Cameos. Léa Seydoux and Ralph Fiennes are also in my review of Spectre. Jeff Goldblum appears in his blogathon tribute, The Tall Guy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fly.