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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Susan Granger's review of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Published 9:16 am, Saturday, April 5, 2014
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Set in 1932 in an opulent Alpine spa in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, Wes Anderson's comedic caper revolves around the eloquent, esteemed concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), and his protege, earnest lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). Apparently, elderly Countess Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis -- aka Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) -- left an invaluable treasure to M. Gustave instead of her own villainous offspring, and the tale-within-a-tale is told through flashbacks.

So it begins with a contemporary prologue as an aging author (Tom Wilkinson) recalls an evening in 1968, when he (Jude Law, as his younger self) dined with elderly Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) in the once-majestic hotel, learning how an incident 50 years earlier changed his life.

When Madame D. dies at her nearby estate, M. Gustave, a legendary lothario, acquires a priceless Renaissance painting, "Boy with Apple," becoming the prime suspect in her murder, according to Madame's devious son Dimitri (Adrien Brody), his henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe) and policeman Henkels (Edward Norton). That launches a noir quest to discover whodunit, which intensifies when madame's executor (Jeff Goldblum) is found dead, and M. Gustave escapes from prison using tiny sledgehammers and pickaxes smuggled past the guards inside delicate frosted pastries, baked by Zero's beloved Agatha (Saoirse Ronan). That ignites an antic, Marx Brothers-like chase sequence in which M. Gustave and Zero sled downhill in pursuit of a villain on skis.

Inspired by the works of Viennese novelist/playwright Stefan Zweig and a nostalgic story conceived with Hugh Guinness, writer/director Wes Anderson ("Moonrise Kingdom," "The Royal Tennenbaums," "Rushmore") concocts a delightfully original, bittersweet, slyly campy saga of murder, theft and conspiracy. Adam Stockhausen's production design is magnificent and cinematographer Robert Yeoman photographs each time frame is in a different aspect-radio, enhanced by Alexandre Desplat's score. Plus, there are farcical cameos from Wes Anderson's regulars: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bob Balaban.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is an imaginative, impressionistic 8. Check out this whimsical, madcap romp.