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Review: Wes Anderson's 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Is Delightful, Delicious and Delovely (CLIP)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 7, 2014 at 3:27PM

Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel" world premiered at the Berlinale and hits theaters Friday, March 7. Here's Anne Thompson's review.
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'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

From the opening frames of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (which opened the Berlinale Thursday and hits screens stateside via Fox Searchlight on March 7) you know you are in Wes Anderson Land. It's lush and gorgeous and colorful and twee and utterly obviously fake. And it's hilarious, with a sprawling cast of mustachioed comedians--led by the remarkable Ralph Fiennes as the concierge, M. Gustave-- crammed into every nook and cranny. The movie is infectiously fun, and looks as if everyone--from the actors and the writer-director, cinematographer Robert Yeoman, production designer Adam Stockhausen, composer Alexandre Desplat and costume designer Milena Canonero on down, are having a fabulous time. 

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Fox Searchlight "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Inspired by the literary world of Vienna's Stefan Zweig, Anderson takes us back in time to a story within a story. The author of a new book entitled "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Tom Wilkinson) launches the narrative in 1985, and swiftly returns to 1968, when his younger self (Jude Law) meets Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), owner of the broken-down Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka, "once the seat of an empire," now sparsely populated by lonely people poking along empty corridors. He agrees to tell the curious young writer about how he came to obtain this odd establishment. At which point we dive back in time again to 1932, when the hotel was at its peak of elegance--with war looming. (Each period gets its appropriate aspect ratio.)

Shot at the film studio in Babelsberg, Germany, Anderson indulges his love of Old Europe and goes to town with wintry mountain landscapes (that look painted), funiculars and old railway trains (an itch he also scratched in "The Darjeeling Limited") and delightfully bizarre interior designs. The first hour goes swiftly, as Gustave romances an aging rich woman (Tilda Swinton), trains young Zero (Tony Revolori) as a lobby boy, and through many twists and turns, steals a valuable painting, runs from the police, enters and escapes from prison (where half-naked and tattooed Harvey Keitel is looking robust as ever) and makes Zero his heir. 

While the cast is delicious--Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe make amusing cardboard villains, Edward Norton pops up as a policeman, Bill Murray is a mustachioed fellow hotelier, and Jeff Goldblum has a nice turn as an estate lawyer--no one takes much screen time, leaving us to hang with the loquacious M. Gustave and his faithful Zero. 

This article is related to: Berlin International Film Festival, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson, Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Reviews, Festivals


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.