DVD Release Date: June 17, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: March 7, 2014 limited; wide March 28
Rating: R (for strong language, some sexual content, and violence)
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 100 min
Directors: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson

As cinematic tastes go, the films of Wes Anderson are an acquired one. For those who’ve found his quaint yet quirky universe of flamboyant symmetry to be a tonal delight, The Grand Budapest Hotel will come as nothing short of a delicious and savory multi-course feast (although its R-rated language, sporadic sexual imagery, and moments of violence may shock fans of Anderson’s more recent, somewhat tamer fare). 

One can’t help but relish the sumptuous palette of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a period caper farce of quick yet subtle wit and dazzling invention. The eyes can’t help but pop at the pastel candy set pieces. It’s breathtaking almost to the point of distraction, as the imagery onslaught competes for focus with the narrative’s initial exposition. Thankfully the setup isn’t nearly as intricate, even as it remains clever.

Set in the 1930s fictionalized Eastern European Republic of Zubrowka, the titular hotel rests in a wintery bucolic alpine landscape. The Grand Budapest is the elite of elites, catering only to the wealthiest and most erudite. The concierge Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes, Skyfall) is a master host who has regular dalliances with the older female guests upon their visits. One is Madame D (Tilda Swinton, Moonrise Kingdom), a matriarch whose untimely death (and apparent murder) puts Gustave in the midst of a battle for a family fortune and prized Renaissance painting. Absurd chaos ensues.

The story is told from the recollection of a middle-aged man Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham, Inside Llewyn Davis) to an author (Jude Law, Side Effects) who’s interested in learning how Moustafa came to own The Grand Budapest. As a young man Moustafa was a lobby boy there, named Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori), who grew to become Gustave’s confidante and most trusted friend during the dramatic fallout of Madame D’s death. Beneath this is the backdrop of Europe in flux toward fascism, with Gustave desperate to maintain and pass on a culture that despotic rulers were trying to crush. As one character says of Gustave: ““The world he wanted to live in ended long before he entered it.”

The various (mis)adventures involve a sprawling ensemble cast comprised of Anderson troupe veterans and newcomers, all who blend smoothly into Anderson’s unique creative ether. It’s a motley mix of soldiers, schemers, lawyers, henchmen, prisoners, and soldiers (German doppleganger Kaiser types that evolve into Nazi-like SS heavies labeled “ZZ”), along with a secret legion of hotel barons known as The Society of the Crossed Keys. Most only appear in minor roles (Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, and Willem Dafoe among them) yet all remain crucial to the plot's twists and turns, as do even bit cameos from the likes of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and others.