The most Wes Anderson Wes Anderson movie, which is a good thing

“Grand Budapest Hotel” is Anderson's most visually witty effort

By Jared Lovrak on March 26, 2014

I'm in a conundrum this week. I can't stress how much you need to see Grand Budapest Hotel, but I want you to see it the same way I did; that is, knowing nothing about it except it's directed by Wes Anderson and the story involves a hotel, possibly in Budapest. If I keep going, I run the risk of diluting the film and your moviegoing experience. It would still be amazing, but seeing it after reading my article would be like watching Citizen Kane for the first time right after I told you Darth Vader is Charles Foster Kane's father. Sometimes it's better to let a story unfold in its own good time.

(Seriously, stop reading and go see the movie. I'll be here when you get back.)

Grand Budapest Hotel is a matryoshka doll of narrative flashbacks. One moment, we're in the present day watching a young girl visit a mysterious gravestone adorned with hotel keys, a book titled Grand Budapest Hotel under her arm. Then it's 1985 and our narrator is an aging author (Tom Wilkinson). No, it's actually 1968, and a young writer (Jude Law) staying at the titular hotel takes over as storyteller. But wait, here comes reclusive, elderly hotel owner Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Now it's 1932, and the Gordian Knot of disparate film genres and character archetypes (or noirchetypes) that makes up the story proper starts to untie itself.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the swankiest luxury hotel in all of the (fictional) European Republic of Zubrowka. The hotel's posh accommodations offer a welcome respite from Zubrowka's harsh, alpine surroundings and the threat of Nazi analogues, (NOTzis?), lurking at its borders. Much of the credit for the hotel's reputation goes to its loyal concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) who, with the help of rookie lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), keeps things running smoothly at the Grand Budapest. In their rare moments of downtime, Zero courts local sweet shop girl Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) while Gustave beds an assortment of aged and wealthy hotel guests.

When one of Gustave's octogenarian conquests (a barely recognizable Tilda Swinton) dies and bequeaths him a priceless painting, Gustave and Zero are drawn into a tangled web of lies, betrayal and murder. And romance. And prison breaks. And a sidesplitting, animated sled chase that's worth the price of admission alone. Some fans felt Anderson lost his stride in recent years, but if this film is any indication, he found it again.

Fiennes and Revolori play off each other effortlessly, giving audiences a humorous take on the "hoity-toity supervisor and his ill-used, longsuffering underling" dynamic. Saoirse Ronan's Agatha is spot-on as the naïve, devoted love interest. Hilarious supporting performances and cameos from prior Wes Anderson collaborators like Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, a scene-stealing Willem Dafoe and - of course - Bill Murray as well as a slew of other famous faces fresh to the Anderson fold make Grand Budapest Hotel worth checking out.

(Or should that be "checking in"?)

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, daily screenings, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett, Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474