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Grand Budapest Hotel, The (Blu-ray Review)

25 Jun, 2014 By: John Latchem

Box Office $58.35 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language, some sexual content and violence.
Stars Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Tom Wilkinson, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson.

Wes Anderson’s penchant for quirky characters and storytelling rises to new levels with The Grand Budapest Hotel, a remarkably entertaining murder mystery inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig.

Anderson’s narrative plays with the way stories and knowledge carry on down the generations, unfolding in a series of flashbacks until we are finally privy to witnessing the events in question first-hand. At present, a young student visits the monument to a long-dead author of a book called The Grand Budapest Hotel. Cut to 1985, as the author (Tom Wilkinson) introduces the circumstances that led to him visiting the Eastern European hotel. In 1968, the author, now played by Jude Law, meets the hotel’s owner, an old man named Zero (F. Murray Abraham).

He tells the author how he came to own the hotel and why he keeps it open in harsh economic times. This brings the story to the film’s main character, the hotel’s concierge in 1932, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, in a fascinating and spectacular performance).

Gustave has grown popular at the hotel catering to its wealthy, older female clientele, primarily by sleeping with them. One elderly widow (Tilda Swinton) is so taken with him she names him in her will, upsetting her son (Adrian Brody), who subsequently has Gustave framed for her murder. Escaping from prison, Gustave and young Zero set out to prove his innocence.

The cast is outstanding, a mix of Anderson regulars and newcomers to his fold, though all are pretty great. Anderson’s snappy directing style also helps maintain the audience’s focus, with a combination of jump cuts, close-ups and characters speaking directly to the camera. Each era within the story is assigned its own aspect ratio, generally emulating the filmmaking style in which it is set (the disc prepares viewers for this reality by suggesting the monitor be set to 16x9 before the movie starts).

The 1932 sequences also rely heavily on models for various visual effects, mostly exteriors of the hotel and an exhilarating ski chase.

The extra features are rather rote, with most of the behind-the-scenes featurettes culled from what appears to be online promotional videos. There are also bits about the cast and Anderson himself. Another featurette focuses on Bill Murray’s experiences with the film, while he was on set to film a brief role.

More amusing are a series of vignettes set in the reality of the film, offering a museum lecture by the author, a look at the secretive Society of the Crossed Keys (an organized network of concierges across Europe), and recipes for some of the desserts showcased in the movie.

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