We went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel last Friday and I liked it so much that now I’m going to have to watch every Wes Anderson movie every made, dammit.
The story takes place in and around The Grand Budapest Hotel, a hotel that never existed but looks, in its original incarnation, like every Beaux Arts European hotel you’ve ever seen photos of. In its more modern-day incarnation it looks like just about any hotel that was renovated in the mid-70s when interior colors were dominated by oranges, browns and burnt umbers and used for everything: carpet, wallpaper, interior paint, bathroom fixtures. This version of the hotel is visited by a travel writer who, much later in his life, writes the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel as he heard it from the owner one night over dinner.
The hotel itself is in the country of Zubrowka, a country that never existed but looks very much like every photo of the Czech Republic you might have seen. And the story takes place at a time just before all the countries of Europe, even the fictional ones, erupted in war, a time that did actually exist but did not look quite like the candy-colored version portrayed in this movie. It has the storybook quality of a Buster Keaton film where events that are amazing, at times outrageously so, unfold so matter-of-factly that you have almost no choice but to accept them even while Buster’s deadpan poker face tells you that something here is not quite right.
Gustave H. is the concierge at the hotel, because the concierge in a story like this one would have to have a name like a really colorful character from an Edgar Allen Poe story. Gustav is something of a ladies’ man, romancing every dowager countess who takes rooms at The Grand Budapest Hotel, the most consequential of whom is Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe-und-Taxis, a name that has got to be an inside joke, if only I knew how. Madame C. dies under mysterious circumstances, leaving her most prized possession, a panting of a boy holding an apple, to Gustav in her will, the reasons for which become clear only after her remaining heirs frame Gustav for her murder, and it’s off to prison for Gustav H.
This movie is not only his story but also the story of Zero Moustafah, the lobby boy taken under Gustave’s wing to learn the art of how a concierge runs a place like The Grand Budapest Hotel. Zero gets Gustav out of jail with the help of his girlfriend Agatha, who works in a bakery and has a birthmark across her cheek that looks so much like the country of Mexico that today everybody would mistake it for a tattoo.
I’m not sure what else to say about The Grand Budapest Hotel except that, being a Wes Anderson movie, it has to be seen to be believed. Oh, and Bill Murray’s in it. Just because. Well, of course he is.