Nonetheless, in The Grand Budapest Hotel he borrows generously from two previous “writer with writer’s block checks in to strange hotel” films, namely the Coen Bros’ Barton Fink and Stanley Kubrick’s classic chiller, The Shining.
And why not. It’s a great set up to a story. So, like any honest filmmaker will tell you, steal from the best.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the fictional setting for Anderson’s multi-layered reflection. And in typical form, his pace slows down for no one, almost daring you to catch all of the intricate plot moments he affectionately strings together so nimbly.
The writer checking in with “scribe’s fever” is played by Tom Wilkinson, who then proceeds to introduce a younger version (1985) of himself played by Jude Law who then proceeds to introduce F. Murray Abraham who was once the young “Lobby Boy” at the then booming hotel (1932) under the thumb of the notorious senior citizen womanizing concierge M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes.
Once all of that is unraveled, the gist of the story stems from Gustave’s relationship with an aging heiress (Tilda Swinton in perfectly aged makeup) who passes away and leaves her young lover the most valuable single asset in her estate, the exquisite and priceless painting, “Boy with Apple.”
This does not sit well at all with Swinton’s conniving son (Adrien Brody) who sicks his henchman (Willem Dafoe) on to Gustave who flees with his loyal lobby boy.
The story is actually the weakest link in Anderson’s new film. Unlike his previous gem, Moonrise Kingdom, all of the quirky silliness does not add up to much. You might say it’s a “father-son” tale between Gustave and his lobby boy, or…I guess you could say it’s a love story between a man and his place of employment; but even on that metaphorical ground it is ultimately unsatisfying.
What is always satisfying in Anderson’s film is his eccentric attention to detail in his screenwriting.
When the “Lobby Boy” rattles off his resume to his new employer he refers to himself not as a dishwasher, but as a “skillet scrubber.”
Later, Gustave sends his apprentice off on a mission with this doozie: “Find him quick and make it snappy.”
Then , when Gustave finds himself in a rough and tumble prison gang (led by Harvey Keitel) he nonchalantly asks one of the goons for a “throat slitter” rather than a knife, or a more typically cliche “shank.” Anderson makes up his own cliches – and apologizes to no one.
And what Wes Anderson film would be complete without the requisite over-the-top prolonged chase sequence and endless parade of cameos from his favorite collection of actors (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban).
I will see this film again when it comes out on DVD. You pretty much have to see all of Anderson’s films at least twice to really appreciate his writing.
I just wish this one made me smile as much as Moonrise Kingdom.