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IN SHORT: An elegant, rampaging mess. [Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence. 100 minutes]
The Grand Budapest Hotel like most of Wes Anderson's films, is deep and difficult and more complicated than almost any other film you could lay out your hard earned cash to see. It seems to have no developing story, as you would expect in a "normal" film. It attempts to re-create a kind of fading lifestyle, in the rebounding Europe in the years between the Great War and the greater horror which will be its sequel..
In this post-Victorian period, hotels served as the rented mansions of the wealthy and the employees of such grand hotels were devoted to fulfilling the needs of their clients. In the particular case of Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, that means taking a place in the beds of the elderly ladies-in-residence, such as the crumbling Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis of Lutz (Tilda Swinton); usually called Madame D. When the Season comes, Madame D departs Lutz for residence in the Alpine country of Zubrowka, where Madame D. arrives at "The Grand Budapest Hotel" with her entourage -- including a personal butler named Serge X (Mathieu Amalric).
The Hotel goes in to a frenzy to accommodate the Madame. Details are picked from the memories of an aging Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) as related to a writer (Jude Law). [FYI, Moustafa, the final owner of the Hotel, was a Lobby Boy during Madam D.'s final visit to The Grand and yes, we have flash-forwarded to reveal that most of The Grand Budapest Hotel is told as a flashback. We warned you that this is a complicated movie].
Word comes of her mysterious death, and Gustave takes young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) across country borders to the funeral of Madame. There, (we) meet her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and various members of her family, all drooling at the thought of what slice of fortune will rain down on them when Deputy Vilmos Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), who is the attorney for the Estate, reads Madame D.'s Last Will and Testament.. At the core of the estate is a painting called "Boy With Apple," which is bequeathed to Monsieur Gustave . . . . who is immediately framed for the murder (by Dmitri) and flees for his life. With Zero at his side and a carefully packaged painting under his arm Gustave makes it back to the Hotel and hides the painting. Zero begins a love affair with a pastry chef called Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) -- you can't miss her. She has a birthmark on the right side of her face in the shape of Mexico. The bakery that she works for, Mendl's, is so famous that even customs inspectors will not open the boxes for fear of disturbing the precious sweet concoctions to be found within. Seriously. Say no more.
This becomes important with the arrival of the Captain of the Lutz Military Police (Edward Norton). at the Hotel, bearing a warrant for the arrest of M. Gustave, with orders to transport the good monsieur to Checkpoint 19, some kind of military detention camp. There, an elaborate escape plan is concocted while, on the outside, Dmitri and the Captain search for the famous painting. We're not quite sure that the Captain actually believes that M. Gustave stole the painting. Orders are orders, after all.
Those reading prior to viewing the film now have a general idea as well as a logical order to keep their thoughts aligned as (you) prepare to watch the film which will eventually morph into something resembling The Fugitive crossed with a secret society of concierges of the grand hotels of Europe -- which brings many celebrity cameos into the picture and keeps the film steadily puffing on until its end, which leaves many questions unanswered and left us feeling disappointed as the theater lights came up.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Grand Budapest Hotel, he would have paid . . .
Cranky is a fan of Wes Anderson's work. Cranky was disappointed. Not a good thing.
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