ReView: The 10-Year, Five-Star Stay at ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

Writer Brendan Parr reflects on Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for its 10 year anniversary.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a loving mixture of irreverent humor and tantalizing display.

Wes Anderson’s 8th film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” premiered in 2014, unraveling the intrepid friendship of a famed concierge and his novice lobby boy.

M. Gustave, eccentric manager to the Grand Budapest, inherits a valuable painting from a dowager guest and former lover. When the widow’s aristocratic family pursues the artwork titled “Boy with Apple,” Gustave enlists his protégé Zero Moustafa to evade capture and uncover a conspiracy tying the painting to the hotel’s ownership.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a colorful caper similar to “Fantastic Mr. Fox” or “Asteroid City” — it’s quintessentially Andersonian (“Moonrise Kingdom,” “Rushmore”). What distinguishes the film apart from Anderson’s other oddball offerings is its grounding in real world politics and palpable heart within each frame.

Inspired by Stefan Zweig’s writings on Eastern Europe’s fascist descent, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” squarely places itself in the fictitious Republic of Zubrowka during the 1930s. 

Political implications shadow each narrative decision, from bratty nobles in Victorian lodgings to prejudiced policemen dragging migrants from trains. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is an unsubtly veiled satire of colorful underdogs outsmarting a bigoted enterprise. Subversion of autocracies boils under the surface until the film’s tragic finale. 

Contrasting the unforgiving setting are colorful relationships. The connection between Gustave and Zero is akin to a father teaching his son the facts of life — how to dress sophisticatedly, stick up for oneself and prioritize courteousness. Likewise, Zero’s budding romance with the local baker Agatha endears with its bright-eyed presentation of young love.

Lobby boy Zero, played by Tony Revolori, is a humbling narrative perspective. A refugee from the fictitious Middle Eastern country Aq Salim al-Jabat, Zero is a reserved figure motivated to prove his self-worth. Revolori (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Servant”) gives Zero a quiet composure, often unsure but fervently loyal to the hotel and Gustave.

On the surface, Ralph Fiennes’ theatrical concierge Gustave is a suave fool more concerned with appearances than his own life. Under the perfume, three-piece suits and apparent vanity, Fiennes (“Schindler’s List,” “The Menu,”) embodies a man passionate about his craft and willing to do anything to protect those close to him. 

Outside of Zero and Gustave, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” decorates its ornate setting with a star-studded cast. Jeff Goldblum as bank deputy Kovacs is uncharacteristically restrained, compelling audiences through a straight-laced approach. Shining as the malicious hitman Jopling, Willem Dafoe’s stoic malevolence reaches cartoonish levels of villainy.

Saorise Ronan as the brave baker Agatha most notably aids the duo’s daring escapes while charming alongside Revolori in an innocent love story. Anderson alumni Adrien Brody, Edward Norton and Bill Murray likewise play supporting cogs to the entrancing machine that is “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Characters, plot points and visuals — every aspect is executed with care and precision. The film ironically mirrors its fictional hotel and staff for being averse to anything but sheer perfection.

Despite the subject matter of evading authoritarian officers with stolen goods, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is rife with light whimsy. The film’s deadpan delivery of humor, discomfort and pleasure is made lively by crafty production and pastel color palettes.

Miniature sets were used to visualize the hotel’s exterior and the European mountains. Matched with Anderson’s symmetrical direction, the array is a feast for the eyes, giving the film an imaginative dollhouse aesthetic.

With candy-colored schemes, the elegant set design encompasses everything from decadence to desolation. The hotel is lavishly decorated with royal reds for the carpet and walls, golds for the ceiling and velvet purples for staff uniforms. In comparison, the towns of Zubrowka are layered with heavy blues and grays as the fascist police bring dark hues with them.

A decade after its release, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is Anderson’s most nuanced and well-rounded picture. The film’s dry delivery mixes with tasteful display to bake a flamboyant cake iced with wit and affection.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is available for streaming on Hulu.

Featured image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Brendan Parr

Brendan Parr