When the Oscars announced their 2015 nominees, one of the big winners was Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Anderson comedy tied with Birdman for the most nominations with nine. The movie picked up a Best Picture nomination and a Best Direction nomination for Anderson. While it did not receive any nominations for the acting, it picked up nominations for cinematography, costume design, editing, makeup, music score, production design and original screenplay.
So, with all the 2015 Oscar nominations, is The Grand Budapest Hotel as good as everyone says it is?
The answer to that will determine whether or not you are a fan of Wes Anderson’s filmmaking style. Anderson is definitely an acquired taste, an art house director with a taste for quirky touches that can grow grating for some but remains endearing to others.
When the movie starts with an author (Tom Wilkinson) starts to read from a book he wrote about a story he heard while visiting The Grand Budapest Hotel, a lavish, luxury hotel in Germany. We flash back to 1968 where the author (Jude Law) meets the elderly owner Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and is invited to dinner to learn the story of how he came to take ownership of the hotel.
The movie then flashes back even further in time to 1932 when Zero (Tony Revolori) was a young lobby boy taken under the mentorship of the concierge, Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave is a brilliant creation, a concierge who is completely respectful and always the perfect gentleman. He wears too much cologne and loves elderly blonde women, many of which he beds regularly. When one of his favorite ladies, Madame D (Tilda Swinton), an 85-year old millionaire, dies shortly after she leaves her last rendezvous with Gustave, he heads to her home to pay his last respects and see if there is anything she left him in her will.
Things go wrong because her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) immediately lashes out at Gustave, especially when she left her most valuable painting to him. Then, everyone learns that Madame D was murdered and Gustave becomes the prime suspect. This sets the movie off on one of the most absurd adventures you will ever see.
Ralph Fiennes is magnificent as Gustave, a perfect gentleman who is also deep down a scoundrel. Through the movie, he is someone you can get behind no matter what he does and no matter what happens. While the person we see the movie through the eyes of is Zero, it is Gustave who carries this movie to its impressive heights.
There are also a ton of character roles in The Grand Budapest Hotel that have to be praised as well. Jeff Goldblum plays Deputy Kovacs, and Goldblum’s quirky mannerisms is perfect for the attorney who is exasperated at the entire situation. Willem Defoe, an Anderson regular, is also impressive as J.G. Jopling, the assassin working for Dmitri. Harvey Keitel also makes a small appearance as a convict named Ludwig that Gustave meets while in prison. That leads to the most convoluted, absurd, over-complicated prison break in movie history.
At the end of the day, there are a ton of supporting actors who could have picked up nominations, yet none of them did. That is likely because this is a true ensemble film and everyone plays their small role, with the exception of Fiennes and Revolori, who carry throughout the movie. Edward Norton is great as an officer, Saoirse Ronan is on fine form as Agatha, Zero’s romantic interest, and even Bill Murray and Owen Wilson pop up in interesting small roles.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a murder mystery where the culprit is never in doubt. More than that, the film is an absurdist comedy or errors that harkens back to British comedies in the Golden Age of film. Yes, the quirky filmmaking techniques that have defined Anderson’s career are on full display here, but at the same time, this is a throwback film and one that shows Anderson’s love of classic cinema.
If you know what to expect from a Wes Anderson film, and enjoy his filmmaking, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a movie that will hold a lot of treasures for you to discover. Just know heading in that this is a quirky, unusual movie that shows a true love of cinema. It’s well worth the watch, and worth every Oscar nomination it deserved.