The Grand Budapest Hotel–Movie Review

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3.5 Stars

The Grand Budapest Hotel posterThe Grand Budapest Hotel (IMDB) is a new movie by Wes Anderson, and thus is both rather funny and rather strange. It reminds me a bit of the old Pink Panther movies–the original funny ones starring Peter Sellers (IMDB, IMDB, IMDB, IMDB and IMDB), not the one starring his corpse (IMDB) or any of the endless later imitations. Unfortunately Peter Sellers is dead and while this movie has a very talented cast there is no one who can match his comic genius.

This movie is framed as a nested series of flashbacks. A student in the fictitious Central European Republic of Zubrowka visits the grave of her country’s most famous writer (Tom Wilkinson) and reads his most famous book, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The writer tells how in the late 1960s as a young man (played by Jude Law) he stayed at a run-down but once-magnificent hotel. There he encountered the mysterious owner (F. Murray Abraham) who agreed to tell him his story.

In 1932 as a young man (Tony Revolori) he obtained employment at the hotel, which was then at the height of its magnificence. He became the protege of the concierge Gustave M. (Ralph Fiennes), a resourceful man of unconventional ethics, but passionately devoted to customer service.

Gustave’s eccentric pursuits lead them to become involved in a bizarre crime caper and murder mystery. It all takes place in the shadow of grim historical events that bear some resemblance to actual European history.

Ultimately this didn’t quite click for me. There are many funny scenes but it’s a bit too dark, a bit too weird and not quite funny enough. If we could have replaced Ralph Fiennes with Peter Sellers, then we might really have had something.

The movie is rated R for some bad language and a rather tasteless modernist painting.