The Grand Budapest Hotel, the title character in the enchanting new film from Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Rushmore”), is an art-deco dream gone to seed; a once-lavish creation that now has the particular sadness of a place that’s slowly fading away. Located in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka, it’s the quiet hero of a story that takes place in three different time periods; a trio of tales like a set of tables, each fitting under the other. (Actually there’s a bit of a fourth, too.)
We begin with a more or less contemporary author (Tom Wilkinson), looking back on his visit to the G.B.H., then flash back some decades to the ‘60s, where that writer as a younger man (Jude Law) talks to the hotel’s owner (F. Murray Abraham), who in turns tells a story from 1932, involving the legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his sidekick “lobby boy” Zero (Tony Revolori).
And off we go, on a caper that whisks us through train journeys across Europe, art theft, highly skilled pastry-making, a thrilling snow chase, imprisonment, romance, unexpected friendship, secret societies of hospitality employees and the discovery of a character named Monsieur Chuck — who is played, as of course he should be, by Owen Wilson. It’s all wonderfully silly, in a very Anderson-ish way: Every frame is carefully composed like the illustrations from a beloved book (characters are precisely centered; costumes are elaborately literal); the dialogue feels both unexpected and happily familiar. The main character — the sweetly wistful Gustave, who calls everybody “darling” — observes that his estate will consist only of “a set of ivory-backed hairbrushes and my library of romantic poetry,” and you don’t doubt it for a second; nor does it come as a surprise that his trademark scent is one called L’Air de Panache.
Anderson has assembled a wonderful cast, both newcomers (Fiennes, Law, Revolori, Saoirse Ronan) and regular Anderson repertory-company members (Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody), to whisk us through this adventurous bonbon of a movie. Along the way, we’re treated to a gentle whiff of nostalgia — the hotel, in the 1960s, seems to be vanishing into an orange-and-brown fog; a shadow of its former self — and a reminder of the pleasures of storytelling.
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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com