“The Grand Budapest Hotel” recounts the adventures of Gustave H., a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune — all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” uses a not dissimilar narrative stratagem, a nesting-doll contrivance conveyed in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-a-crucial-part-of-it opening. A young lady visits a park and gazes at a bust of a beloved “Author,” who is then made flesh in the person of Tom Wilkinson, who then recalls his younger self in the person of Jude Law, who then recounts his meeting with Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the owner of the title hotel. Said hotel is a legendary edifice falling into obsolescence, and Law’s “Author” is curious as to why the immensely wealthy Moustafa chooses to bunk in a practically closet-size room on his yearly visits to the place. Over dinner. Moustafa deigns to satisfy the writer’s curiosity, telling him of his apprenticeship under the hotel’s one-time concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes).
All of this material is conveyed not just in the standard Wes Anderson style, e.g., meticulously composed and designed shots with precise and very constricted camera movements. In “Hotel” Anderson’s refinement of his particular moviemaking mode is so distinct that his debut feature, the hardly unstylized “Bottle Rocket,” looks like a Cassavetes picture by comparison. So, to answer some folks who claim to enjoy Anderson’s movies while also grousing that they wish he would apply his cinematic talents in a “different” mode: no, this isn’t the movie in which he does what you think you want, whatever that is. – Roger Ebert