The Grand Budapest Hotel

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.

can’t wait for the video

Hypothetical question for you: Pretend for a moment that you have somehow been sucked backward through time. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you find yourself experiencing events that have already happened to you. As a general rule, what’s the one thing you should never, ever do? Anybody? Anybody?

Okay, I’ll just tell you: You should never try to tell anybody you’re a time traveler. This should be Rule Number One For Time Travelers, even before the old classic, “Be careful not to meet yourself, or kill your parents, or step on the mouse that’s going to evolve into humankind.” Because if you make the mistake of trying to tell someone you’re a time traveler, they’re going to think you’re crazy, even if you start the conversation, as so many time travelers do, with, “What I’m about to say is going to sound crazy, but….” The next scene will open with you tied to a bed in a padded room as a nurse walks in and begins to feed you a bowl of soft food with a rubberized spoon. Every time traveler who has ever been sucked backwards through the space-time continuum thinks that if he explains calmly and rationally that he’s from the future, or that he can prove it by telling someone what’s about to happen, then naturally everyone will believe him, but they never do, do they? Just forget about telling anyone, no matter how desperate you think you are. There’s no way that’s going to end well for you.

This public service message is brought to you courtesy of yours truly after I ran across a movie teaser on the web the other day that opened with that very scene. Tom Cruise plays the time traveler in a movie called Edge of Tomorrow that appears to be a mash-up of Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers and Band Of Brothers. Although I’m pretty sick of time travel movies and I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise, I’m looking forward to seeing this movie when it comes out on video because that powered armor suit he’s wearing is badass!