THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Wes Anderson with a budget and a historic backdrop. His scenarios from film to film could hardly be more different, but here as in his other movies it’s easy to spot the Wessian whimsy. This Mittel-European slice of pastry comes with a bitter lemon center that reflects the passing away of an old world under the advancing jackboots of the Nazis. Restrained, almost unemotional, but at times very funny, it has a dream cast of thousands fronted by an expansive Ralph Fiennes and featuring little-known Tony Revolori, who plays F. Murray Abraham’s character as a young lad with the deadpan expressiveness of a Buster Keaton. There’s at least one art school reference (the movie theater usher right out of Edward Hopper), an allusion to Shakespeare (the three witches, right?) and a toy-like model of a funicular that looks like an early silents contraption built by Melies (you know: HUGO). If the movie seems to evaporate on you after a few days, it may be because Anderson never browbeats, leaving the richness of his vision to be discovered, perhaps, in multiple watchings. — Jeff Schultz

If you don’t recognize this as a Wes Anderson movie within the first few frames, then you are either not an Anderson fan or not paying attention. The quirky-great auteur has an unmistakable style. His sense of humor, the innocence of some of his characters and his penchant for not feeling it necessary to put the camera up his actors nostril’s are what make him so unique.  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is no different. And is better for all of it. Anderson once again creates a world that is totally fictitious and totally believable. It also is populated by some of Anderson’s troop of actors such as Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray (Bob Balaban also has a small part and both he and Murray are better used here than in any part of The Monuments Men).  Ralph Fiennes is Gustave H. Concierge at the Grand Budapest and servicer of elderly women. One (played by Tilda Swinton) dies and leaves M. Gustave a priceless painting. He is then accused of murder, goes to jail then plots and executes his escape. He is assisted by the Lobby Boy Zero (that’s his name, not the content of his personality). That’s the basics of the plot, but in typical Anderson fashion it’s the journey to the plot that is more than half the fun. Grand Budapest ranks as one of Anderson’s finest films.  It lacks the sweet innocence of Moonrise Kingdom, but makes up for that with a wickedness that constantly entertains. Check into this Hotel before it closes. — Alan Yudman

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