I'm a fair-weather Wes Anderson fan. I loved Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums. I found Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to be unwatchable. I didn't find Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel to be nearly as polarizing as his previous works.
The movie is told through a double flashback with a writer ( played by Jude Law and Tom Wilkinson) recounting his time spent with the owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1960's. The hotel in the 60's is in a deplorable state, having not been properly maintained, but it is clear that this was once a resort of choice for the wealthy. The hotel proprietor ( F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori) tells the writer a colorful tale about how he went from being a lobby boy to the owner of the hotel.
In the 1930's, the Grand Budapest was in its heyday and Zero (Revolori) came under the tutelage of the eccentric head concierge, Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave ran a tight ship and had a knack for keeping guests pleased, even if it meant carrying on affairs with elderly women. One such romantic entanglement, left Gustave as the heir to a fortune. The family of the deceased will stop at nothing to keep their inheritance, which sets in motion a crazy chain of events.
As you can expect with a Wes Anderson film, there is an abundance of quirkiness. It mostly works and the offbeat humor is often very funny. This film has plenty of style, with artsy sets and creative location. However, the style is not without substance. The backbone of this movie is solid story telling. Since the story was solid, I was able to enjoy the sets and zany characters. They enhanced the story, rather than detracted from it.
I absolutely loved Ralph Fiennes as Gustave. He was hilarious and a scene stealer every time he was on the screen. The hotel is a character in its own right. It reminded me of Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, especially when it's dilapidated in the 60's. It's truly a grand spectacle and easy to believe that it could have existed.
The film does have pacing issues and it's sluggish in the middle. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and even though the plot is quickly moving, it occasionally feels tedious, because there is so much going on. It's frenetic. I wanted the movie to slow down so that I could soak in the sets and the literary narration. There is no time to take a beat, because there is so much that needs to be crammed in. I probably would have preferred this story if I had read it, rather than watching it.
Overall, The Grand Budapest Hotel was an enjoyable ride and worth seeing.