The Grand Budapest Hotel is a 2014 film written & directed by Wes Anderson. It jumps around in time, but takes place in the fictional European country of Zubrowka. The narrator is a present day author, recounting the time in the 1960s that he visited the Grand Budapest Hotel, a once glorious magnet for the elite that had since become neglected and populated only by introverted regulars living in a mustard toned sea of chipped paint. There, the author (played by Jude Law for the 1960s bit/Tom Wilkinson for present day) meets and is told the story of Zero Moustafa (Tony Revoluri/F. Murray Abraham), the lobby boy turned millionaire and eventual owner of the Grand Budapest and his friendship and adventures with M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge with perfect hair who saunters through scenes of pastels and colors that pop in the war-torn 1930s. When M. Gustave is framed for the murder of his wealthy elderly lover, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), the two go on a series of adventures together to clear his name.
The plot shift from the charmingly mundane to a full on murder mystery hinges upon the entrance of Jeff Goldblum. As Deputy Kovacs, attorney and emissary of the Grand Budapest’s owner in the 1930s part of the film, Goldblum makes his entree at the hotel with Persian cat and salt and pepper beard. He pops up again soon after as the executor of the dead woman’s estate, setting in motion a war of hard feelings and inheritance woes.
Kovacs is all business. He speaks in legal jargon, is too busy to crack a smile, and dresses in an assortment of gray suits. Whatever desk he finds himself standing behind seems to have a stack of papers on top of it, as if it were anticipating him or attracted to him.
After the disastrous reading of Madame D’s will, Kovacs and Madame’s children adjourn to another room. He’s not intimidated by Madame D’s son Dimitri, a hotheaded person with a violent streak. “Just wrap it up and don’t make waves. Agreed?” Dimitri says threateningly to Kovacs, in regards to the will.
“I’m an attorney, Dimitri. I’m obligated to proceed according to the rule of law. Not agreed,” Kovacs answers in a calm measured voice.
He acts with incredulity instead of alarm when Dimitri’s henchman throws Kovacs’ cat out of the window as a response. It’s as if this lawless behavior just doesn’t fit into his world; it’s not something he can understand. Even after he witnesses this, he responds to the henchman waiting outside of his office with irritation instead of fear…initially. When it becomes apparent that the henchman is following him, he finally understands the danger he is in.
Where he goes, trouble follows…
Goldblum’s character of Vilmos Kovacs was named as a combined tribute to Vilmos Zsigmond and László Kovács, two cinematographers who fled Hungary after creating a documentary detailing the Hungarian revolt against Soviet troops in Austria.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of Wes Anderson’s finest yet it manages to appear quieter and more unassuming next to some of his louder masterpieces like The Royal Tenenbaums. Still, it is just as full of the color, quirkiness, and fast paced extravagance that defines a Wes Anderson flick. It is, like the Grand Budapest itself, enchanting.
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