Wednesday, November 12, 2014


By D.E.Levine

Director Wes Anderson has once again brought us a new film cast with a long list of well known actors and comedians that is resplendent with rich scenery, costumes, sets and humore.

Packed with the type of visual shots that he's noted for, Anderson draws upon a group of actors frequently appearing in his films, including Tida Swinton, Jason Schwartman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Bob Balaban.  The group is headed by the most unlikely actor, Ralph Fiennes,  who is generally known for his dramatic roles.  In this film however, playing the concierge M. Gustave, Fiennes is extremely funny and delivers a flawless performance.

Based on the writings of the noted Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, the film takes place in the imaginary Republic of Zubrowka.  Introduced by an aging writer played by Tom Wilkenson, the story takes us back to 1968 when a younger version of the writer (Jude Law) stayed at the aging and somewhat tacky Iron Curtain Grand Hotel Budapest.  Meeting the hotel's owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the writer learns the history of the hotel and how Mr. Moustafa beame the owner .

Over an elaborate dinner, reminiscing about happier and more lucrative times, when the hotel was the centerpiece of  a group of "grand hotels", Mr. Moustafa tells the tale of how he started as a lobby boy named Zero (played by Tony Revolori) and became Mr. Gustave's "right hand" watching him rule the staff and devote himself to the clients/customers.

Nostalgic and beautiful, the central plot revolves around the death of a noble matriarch (Tilda Swinton), the theft of a priceless painting (Boy With Apple) by M. Gujstave, and the antics of the noble's family headed by her son (Adrien Brody) using "hit man" (Willem DaFoe) to recover the painting.  Along the way Zero falls in love with a baker's assistant (Saorse Ronan) at Mendel's, who artfully conceals miniature tools in pastry to enable M.Gustave and other prisoners to painstakingly dig their way out of prison.

With Zero's assistance Gustave flees across the frozen wasteland of Zubrowka, chased by the hit man and intent on clearing his name and bringing the matriarch's murderer to justice.  The settings are breathtaking, the acting impeccable and the film is extremely funny.

With an original musical score by Alexandre Desplat that sounds almost like Klezmer band music and adds to the film's feeling and action, Anderson has, in his eighth feature, once again provided a unique and novel comedy.