Five-star experience

A delightful stay with wonderful characters in Wes Anderson’s offbeat universe

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe. Directed by Wes Anderson. Cinemark 14. Rated R.
Rated 5.0

It’s the new film from Wes Anderson, and it’s a fanciful delight in every respect. Beyond that, it’s not so easy to summarize, but the whimsical meanderings of its story are very much to the point and very much a part of its offbeat charm and the many small, irresistible pleasures that go with it.

Besides, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to speak of it also as the story of an imaginary middle European hotel in the imaginary Republic of Zubrowka in the mostly very real year of 1932. But it’s also the tale of how a modern-day resident of that hotel, the mysterious and rather sorrowful Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), came to be its owner. And that story, in turn, centers on the remarkable character and career of Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the legendary and perhaps improbable concierge of that establishment, the Grand Budapest Hotel, in its heyday.

The 1932 part of the story is central to everything else in the film. The rise of Nazism lingers on the horizon while center stage is occupied by the semi-picaresque adventures of M. Gustave and an orphaned refugee named Zero (Tony Revelori) and the farcical melodrama that ensues when M. Gustave finds himself named executor of the estate of an elderly woman of wealth (a heavily made-up Tilda Swinton) who just happens to be the owner, in 1932, of the eponymous hotel.

Convoluted pursuit of the old gal’s frequently revised last will brings a would-be heir (Adrien Brody), the family’s fearsome “enforcer” (Willem Dafoe), a double-dipping lawyer (Jeff Goldblum), a tattooed thug (Harvey Keitel), and the maidenly Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) into the action. An archetypically Germanic army officer (Edward Norton) re-appears, full of polished menace, at various inopportune moments. A slippery sort of double agent, Serge X. (Mathieu Amalric), does the same, but more helpfully.

Somehow the whole enterprise also finds room, briefly, for characters played by Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban and Léa Seydoux. An abundance of quirky characters, confectionery colors and eccentric curios is all part of the entertainment here.

Overall, tragicomic high spirits in deteriorating circumstances are the film’s strong suit, and Fiennes’ superb multifaceted performance ensures M. Gustave’s status as the atypical hero at the heart of Anderson’s vision.