Estranged brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) reunite for a train trip across India. The siblings have not spoken in over a year, ever since their father passed away. Francis is recovering from a motorcycle accident, Peter cannot cope with his wife’s pregnancy, and Jack cannot get over his ex-lover. The brothers fall into old patterns of behavior as Francis reveals the real reason for the reunion: to visit their mother in a Himalayan convent.
“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
This film is sort of a daydream for American lit majors. Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) are officially in love, but maybe what Gil really loves is Paris in the springtime. He’s a hack screenwriter from Hollywood who still harbors the dream of someday writing a good novel and joining the pantheon of American writers whose ghosts seem to linger in the very air he breathes: Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the other legends of Paris in the 1920s.
Some audience members might be especially charmed by “Midnight in Paris.” They would be those familiar with Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and the artists who frequented Stein’s famous salon: Picasso, Dali, Cole Porter, Man Ray, Luis Bunuel and Tom Eliot. Allen assumes some familiarity with their generation, and some moviegoers will be mystified, because cultural literacy is not often required at the movies anymore.
This is Woody Allen’s 41st film. He writes his films himself, and directs them with wit and grace. I consider him a treasure of the cinema. Some people take him for granted, although “Midnight in Paris” reportedly charmed even the jaded veterans of the Cannes press screenings. There is nothing to dislike about it. Either you connect with it or not. – Roger Ebert