'The Grand Budapest Hotel' review: It's all in the details

RedEye's Matt Pais and Ernest Wilkins discuss the latest from Wes Anderson, which is one of his best.

**** (out of four)

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is such a sprint—actually, since this is Wes Anderson, it’s more of a scamper—that viewers may miss the pacing’s emotional intent. A brain-tickling bottleneck of imagination, “Hotel” presents life as fleeting and humble, potentially insignificant experiences as the hypothetical foundation of legacy.

There are so many elaborate plot details and rich, perfectly cast characters that the rest of this review could be spent listing and explaining. To try and condense: In 1968 in the fictional former republic of Zubrowka, an author (Jude Law) listens to Zero (F. Murray Abraham) recount the complicated manner in which he became the owner of the once-heralded, now-declining Grand Budapest Hotel. This flashes back to 1932, when Zero (played as a young man by newcomer Tony Revolori) works as a lobby boy under the tutelage of “liberally perfumed” concierge extraordinaire Gustave (Ralph Fiennes/Voldemort, in a rare comedic role). This man is a paragon of hospitality and class—other than his nihilistic note that life is so fast as to be pointless, and his fondness for sleeping with his wealthy, aged guests. “She was dynamite in the sack, by the way,” he says after Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) passes away. With her fortune, including a valuable painting, up for grabs, the story opens up to involve Madame’s conniving son (Adrien Brody) and a violent henchman who could be properly played by none other than Willem Dafoe.

At last, Anderson (who directed and wrote the script, inspired by the work of Austrian author Stefan Zweig, from a story conceived with Hugo Guinness) challenges himself to expand his universe. It’s pure delight to get lost in this world. The result is 2014’s second viewing experience (after “The Lego Movie”) that delivers so much creativity you want to take a selfie of your grin and look at it the next time you see something lousy.

If you’ve ever seen an Anderson film (“Rushmore,” “Moonrise Kingdom”), you know the man is meticulous in his visual constructions and comedic timing. Collecting so many lonely and joyous peculiarities of human behavior, “Hotel” is as lovely and layered as the baked goods prepared by Zero’s love, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan). Throughout, Anderson shows the value of a filmmaker working at the full, precise capacity of a master chef. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the movie that earns him his third Michelin star.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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