Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson. Written by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, inspired by Stefan Zweig. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, and Jude Law. Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2014. Rated R for language, some sexual content, and violence. Running time: 100 minutes.

I don’t like filmmaker Wes Anderson’s cartoonish cinematography or his turgid prose. But I like his Grand Budapest Hotel anyway.

Although it is widely billed as a comedy, and although it does have many humorous moments, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a deeply tragic film whose main characters suffer great loss—and yet maintain their grasp on civilized values. In a time of oppressive injustice and war, they aim, as the lead character Monsieur Gustave puts it, to enjoy and preserve the “faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.”

Central to the film is the friendship between Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the hotel’s perfectionist concierge, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the hotel’s new lobby boy. Initially Gustave is underwhelmed by Zero’s credentials until he asks him why he wants the job. Zero replies, “Who wouldn’t want to work at the Grand Budapest Hotel? It’s an institution.” From then on Gustave joyously makes Zero his confidant and protégé, leaning on him when he needs to and standing up for him when he can.

In a better world, Gustave and Zero would have nurtured their friendship in the bustling hotel, Gustave would have grown old enjoying the pleasures of life, and Zero would have married his sweetheart in peace and lived with her happily ever after.

Instead, Gustave is framed for the murder of an older lover and sent to prison. . . .

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