DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Review.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art
The Grand Budapest Hotel is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) movie poster The Grand Budapest Hotel

Theatrical Release: March 7, 2014 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Wes Anderson / Writers: Wes Anderson (story & screenplay); Hugo Guinness (story); Stefan Zweig (inspiration)

Cast: Ralph Fiennes (M. Gustave), Tony Revolori (Zero), F. Murray Abraham (Mr. Moustafa), Mathieu Amalric (Serge X.), Adrien Brody (Dmitri), Willem Dafoe (Jopling), Jeff Goldblum (Deputy Kovacs), Harvey Keitel (Ludwig), Jude Law (Young Writer), Bill Murray (M. Ivan), Edward Norton (Henckels), Saoirse Ronan (Agatha), Jason Schwartzman (M. Jean), Léa Seydoux (Clotilde), Tilda Swinton (Madame D.), Tom Wilkinson (Author), Owen Wilson (M. Chuck), Larry Pine (Mr. Mosher), Giselda Volodi (Serge's Sister), Florian Lukas (Pinky), Karl Markovics (Wolf), Volker Zack Michalowski (Günther), Neal Huff (Lieutenant), Bob Balaban (M. Martin), Fisher Stevens (M. Robin), Wally Wolodarsky (M. Georges), Waris Ahluwalia (M. Dino)

Buy The Grand Budapest Hotel from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HDDVDInstant Video

The first seven features written and directed by Wes Anderson have ranged from good to great. His eighth, The Grand Budapest Hotel, falls short of his high standard of storytelling. This one is more an exercise in technique than a traditional narrative.
It's like a feature-length short or an anthology of them with a couple of characters running through dissimilar, clearly defined parts.

The film opens with a reader visiting a statue of an author who's presumably long deceased. Then, we're in 1985 where that same author (Tom Wilkinson) is alive and recording a video explaining his inventions channel experience more than imagination. Shortly after, we journey back to 1968 where the palatial titular hotel residing in a made-up part of central Europe is scarcely populated by solitary types, including a curious writer (Jude Law), who may or may not be a younger version of the author. His stay at the Grand Budapest coincides with one of three yearly visits made by Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the establishment's enigmatic proprietor. In the hotel's mineral baths, Moustafa addresses the writer and agrees to tell him his story.

That story mostly takes place in 1932 and constitutes the bulk of the film. It involves a teenaged Zero (Tony Revolori) joining the hotel as lobby boy and being instructed by the erudite head concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Always busy either privately romancing guests, many of them elderly and all of them blonde, or responding to queries from the hotel's large staff, Gustave takes Zero under his wing. The two become accomplices when one of Gustave's loves, the aging Madame D. (a brief Tilda Swinton, unrecognizably aged), dies suddenly. The death is ruled a murder and Gustave the prime suspect.

Lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) and concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) are the two constants running through Wes Anderson's otherwise varied "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Madame's will entitles Gustave to Boy with Apple, a priceless Renaissance painting that he considers the only worthwhile possession in her substantial estate. That decision does not sit well with Madame's many surviving relatives, especially her son (a mustachioed Adrien Brody) and a hired assassin (Willem Dafoe). Gustave winds up incarcerated, enabling Anderson to make a prison escape mini-movie building upon the Shawshank Redemption-inspired disappearing act of Moonrise Kingdom. It involves digging tools hidden inside pastries, long ladders, and a bald Harvey Keitel.

Grand Budapest Hotel largely exists to indulge the filmmaker in his distinctive artistic interests inspired by the French New Wave and other underappreciated European cinema. It feels like a 100-minute challenge to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to continue denying Anderson's films the Production Design and Cinematography Oscar nominations many would argue they deserve. Here, production design overshadows characters and storytelling, areas that have earned the director a passionate following. Yes, Anderson's fans enjoy Chaz Tenenbaum and sons' matching track suits and Team Zissou's shoes (come to think of it, has Adidas sufficiently compensated Anderson?). But without substantial characters and story, costumes, details, and all those things identified onscreen with pink, yellow or white Futura text wouldn't be worth appreciating and celebrating. That is the experience Grand Budapest offers: a parade of opulent sets, stylish visuals (Anderson and DP Robert Yeoman's most colorful yet and most of them in the classic 1.37:1 Academy Ratio), and assorted genres that fail to compel and excite.

In a role originally intended for Angela Lansbury, a heavily aged Tilda Swinton portrays 84-year-old dowager Madame D. Saoirse Ronan plays Agatha, a pastry chef with a Mexico-shaped facial birthmark who falls for Zero and helps M. Gustave escape prison.

Chockfull of Anderson alums (including such staples as Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson along with numerous second-timers like Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Keitel, and the Angela Lansbury-replacing Swinton), the giant cast is game. Those new to Anderson's world, whether accomplished like Fiennes (who replaced Johnny Depp) and Saoirse Ronan or green like Revolori, are at ease with the material. But that material only takes them so far. Anderson's movies have always been eccentric affairs, but this one offers an overdose of quirk (e.g. a Mexico-shaped facial birthmark, a penciled-in mustache, and a secret legion of concierges).
That might be the most troubling thing about this film that many are lavishing with praise. It plays like a movie making fun of Wes Anderson movies or a poor attempt at aping one. Though laughs were regular at my crowded screening, they were scattered. One joke lands here, another there. Sadly, not a single one delighted me, a person you may know from six past reviews as a huge fan of Anderson's wit. The comedy of Grand Budapest is broad and off-target.

Perhaps Anderson benefits from script collaboration. His past films have attributed their screenplays to him and others, including Wilson, Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and Noah Baumbach. This one's screenplay is solely credited to Anderson, though British artist and Anderson friend Hugo Guinness shares story credit and Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig gets one whopper of an "inspired by" screen at the start of the end credits. (You may suspect it's Anderson having more fun with creation, like the political struggles he invents for his made-up Republic of Zubrowka, the species he concocted for The Life Aquatic, or the game of Whack-Bat, but you would be wrong, which may be why he even includes Zweig's birth and death years and locations).

So full of passion and detail, Anderson's films are several years in the making, which renders this more disappointing than a misfire from a less talented or meticulous auteur. We probably can't expect to see anything new written and directed by Anderson until 2017 at the earliest. By then, I might have the chance to see if this doesn't benefit from repeat viewings the way all of Anderson's films do. By then, this might very well have already gotten released by The Criterion Collection, as the director's first six films have (if not, Moonrise Kingdom should be overdue for that treatment).

Buy The Grand Budapest Hotel from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Wes Anderson: Bottle RocketRushmoreThe Royal TenenbaumsThe Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouThe Darjeeling LimitedFantastic Mr. Fox
F. Murray Abraham: Inside Llewyn Davis | Jude Law: HugoContagion | Bill Murray: The Monuments Men

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed March 14, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Fox Searchlight Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, and American Empirical Pictures.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.