Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Grand Budapest Hotel, or: Courtesan au Chocolat Si’l Vous Plaît

This week’s entry in Blog Free or Die Hard is one of my favorite films and I might have cried a little when Christa suggested it.  I would watch this one with you 1,000 times, blog wife.  Speaking of which, how many times have I seen this film (you may ask yourself)?  Er, more than once…

The Film:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Where to Watch:

Figure it out

The Premise:

An unnamed author relates the story of M. Gustave, eccentric hotel concierge, and his protégé, Zero Mostafa.

The Uncondensed Version:

I love this film, but it takes the frame story concept a little bit too far:  it’s a story in a story in a story.  In a story.  But it’s a great one, so I’ll let it slide.  And good lord, I don’t think any critic could possibly believe there are too few cameos in this.  It’s like everyone who was even once considered for a role in a Wes Anderson film ended up in this.  Even so, the cameos are pretty excellent.

Our story is based on a fictional book (inspired by a real author’s works), which is in turn based on a lobby boy’s story about his mentor and friend, M. Gustave.  Aforementioned lobby boy is now the owner of the titular Grand Budapest Hotel, now a shadow of its former self.  The author of the story notices this man, Zero Mostafa, because he carries an air of sadness and loneliness.

The author (unnamed as far as I know, but I won’t pretend I’m wonderful at remembering character names) jumps at the chance to have dinner with Zero and hear his story.

Zero’s story introduces M. Gustave, the rather eccentric hotel concierge.  As Zero observes, one of M. Gustave’s, er “other duties as assigned” is to be a sort of male escort to wealthy old blonde ladies.  One of these ladies is played by a basically unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, who is reluctant to leave the hotel as she’s had a premonition of her death.

Gustave reassures her and sends her on her way home, so all must end well, mustn’t it?

hotel staff dressed in purple escort an elderly woman who is dressed in elaborate fashion up an elevator
But seriously, Tilda Swinton.  WHAT.

At this point, Zero enters the story as the newly hired lobby boy that M. Gustave is quite irked he never signed off on.  However, he comes around quite quickly and teaches Zero the ways of being a lobby boy.  It’s because of his work as a lobby boy that Zero meets Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan, who I’m a bit obsessed with).  Agatha works in Mendl’s, the local bakery whose special is a courtesan au chocolat.

a young blonde woman with a scar shaped like Mexico bicycles, balancing many pink bakery boxes
Aaaaaaaaand no one ever explains that scar.

The GBH routine is thrown into chaos when M. Gustave receives bad news about Tilda Swinton (I reiterate that I’m terrible at remembering character names) and rushes to her side along with Zero.  In a moment that becomes of great significance later in the plot, Zero and M. Gustave are stopped during their train journey and roughed up a bit by a rather fascist military force.  Luckily, Edward Norton with a really great moustache intervenes.

By the time M. Gustave and Zero arrive Tilda’s estate (incidentally, a castle), she has died.  On the bright side, she’s left a priceless painting to M. Gustave, “Boy with Apple.”  Tilda’s son, Dmitri, is less than thrilled and, in fact punches M. Gustave, insisting he leave immediately.  M. Gustave and Zero are only too happy to oblige, especially as they manage to smuggle “Boy with Apple” along.

a man on a train unveils a painting to another man, who is seen in the reflection of a small mirror
I love this shot.  And this scene.  And everything about this movie.

Once safely aboard the train, M. Gustave plans to sell the painting, leave the country with Zero before war breaks out, and make Zero his only heir.  This plan is interrupted when M. Gustave is arrested for the murder of Tilda’s character and imprisoned.  As you might expect, this leads to an elaborate prison break attempt.  Additionally, terrifying Willem Dafoe trying to track down the painting at any cost, including murder.  So.  Many.  Murders.

I don’t want to give absolutely everything away, but all of this results in a call to the secret society of concierges, a dramatic high speed sled chase, war breaking out, a shootout in the Grand Budapest Hotel, and the discovery of a secret other will.

The film is fundamentally about M. Gustave and Zero’s relationship, which becomes a father/son relationship as neither has biological family alive.  M. Gustave is one of my favorite characters in film, both committed to behaving properly and in the best interests of the hotel while simultaneously being incredibly self-interested and judgmental.  This film is also a great deal about the end of an era in the aftermath of war, so it’s quite a bit sadder than other Wes Anderson works.

a man holds the shoulders of a younger man, looking at him earnestly
Fine, I confess I currently cry at EVERYTHING.

Spoiler:  The last 10 minutes will probably crush your spirit.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I like that Wes isn’t afraid to go much darker and sadder with this than he usually does.  I lost track of the total number of murders, but there are AT LEAST 11.  Has there been even ONE murder in all other Wes Anderson films combined???  Seriously, please tell me because this film makes me forget about other Wes Anderson films.  It’s so beautiful and confident, and if the last 10 minutes don’t make you weep, your heart is made of stone.

Was Christa on the same page or do I have to write her out of my will? (Totally kidding, girl.  You still get the portrait of Bertha Mason.)  Read her review here to find out!

And don’t worry—if you’re getting tired of the high quality in films lately, we WILL return to absolutely shitty B-movies soon.  It’s getting to the point where I feel conflicted about still calling this a bad movie blog.  Bear with us for one more week.