I recall seeing a preview for The Grand Budapest Hotel in theaters sometime toward the end of winter and thinking it was a film I could really enjoy. Although I missed it in theaters I recently had the pleasure of watching it through an on demand service and really enjoyed its whimsy and ridiculousness.
The film is set in a fictional East European country known as the Republic of Zubrowka. Small and quaint, but perched on the edge of the coming war. The citizens here seem to have a sense of manners and aristocracy which covers the absurdity of the actual goings on throughout the story. The story begins as a flashback of an author who spends considerable time in the late 60s staying at the defunct hotel. He happens a chance encounter with the proprietor who, by all accounts, prefers to keep to himself and stay in a broom closet. This leads to a unique opportunity to hear the wonderful story of how he came to own The Grand Budapest Hotel.
From there we are launched into a flashback where most of the story takes place in the 30s centered around a lobby boy known as Zero, played by Tony Revolori, and his mentor and head concierge for the hotel M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes. Gustave is the picture of concierge perfection; polite and attentive, while also expecting nothing less of the staff working under him. Under the surface he also appears to go "above and beyond" for the older female clientele who frequently find themselves in his charge; often being summoned to their rooms for comfort of both mental and physical types.
The plot centers mostly around the passing of one such client who wills M. Gustave a particularly treasured painting and the woman's family who intends to prevent him from claiming that inheritance at any cost. This leads to various escapades you might not normally expect from a simple hotel concierge and his lobby boy including grand larceny, an ingenious prison break and an ever present effort by German officer Henckles, played by Edward Norton, to get to the bottom of the crimes being committed.
There are a number of bit roles and cameos by the likes of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel and Jeff Goldblum to name a few. The writing and acting throughout is consistent and fantastic as you might expect from a film of this type. It feels very much like a mixture of elements and storytelling a la Royal Tennenbaums, Four Rooms, Fargo and just about any Coen Brothers film. The whole thing is a medium of comedy with a slice of drama and heist or caper on the side. There are moments of length that are palpable toward the middle-late portion of the film, but overall it flows well and wraps up in a satisfying way.
Overall I would strongly recommend anyone who is a fan of other films of this type to check this one out as well. It was enjoyable and entertaining throughout with only a small period of sluggishness. The story was interesting and well played out with acting that made you believe it was all real and perfectly normal.
Have thoughts on the film? Agree or disagree completely? Share your opinions in the comments below!