In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the movie’s titular edifice is seen perched atop an Alps-like mountain looking like a birthday cake smothered in icing you can almost taste. It’s an old-world, pretty-in-pink picture, and the movie’s writer and director Wes Anderson wants to regress us back to that more civilized time whose days are, unfortunately, numbered. (It’s the early 1930s in a fictitious Eastern-European principality called Zubrowka, and war is coming).
Anderson contrasts that era’s Venusian culture and refined comportment with an encroaching lack of civility, and paints vision of better days by telling the story of the hotel itself.
Most conveniently, in present-day 1985, an older author (Tom Wilkinson) has just published a book about The Grand Budapest. The scribe’s younger self (Jude Law) had learned about the hotel’s history nearly two decades earlier from an older gentleman named Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the owner of the once glorious establishment which a totalitarian government has by then allowed to fall into disrepair.
The elder Zero’s briskly moving tale centers around the world-renown and potty-mouthed concierge Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), under whose eye the younger Zero (Tony Revolori), a refugee, worked as lobby boy and shared equally in Gustave’s adventures.
The thickening plot involves Gustave-centric mayhem as the concierge is framed for the murder of Madame D (Tilda Swinton), a wealthy dowager with a fought-over will; her greedy son (Adrien Brody); a thug (Willem Dafoe); and comely baker Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) whom Zero’s sweet on. A speed-demon slalom-like chase – we watch tiny black shapes on skis and a sled in the snow propelled forward into the distance like rockets – is a seat-gripping highlight, and an apt metaphor for how quickly venerable institutions change.
The movie’s archetypal foundation is Venusian to the core – fine art, beauty, delicacies, architecture, Feminine inspiration, Zero’s love for Agatha, and even the color pink – grounded in the prized painting which Gustave has inherited from Madame D. Such reverence may no longer exist in Zubrowka but, as an individual commitment, it’s a permanent part of our nature, a truly grand notion validated by Zero himself at the film’s end.
Astrology Film Rating: ♀ (Venus)