NR Digital

Another Lost Kingdom

by Ross Douthat
A review of The Grand Budapest Hotel

There are ways in which The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s eighth film, feels like the key to all his other works. Set in the fictional Hapsburg-ish dominion of Zubrowka in the twilight of the interwar period, it has as its dominant character a concierge named Gustave H., an arbiter of Old World elegance who presides over the titular hotel — a pink confection, rising against an Alpine backdrop — with a glorious fussiness, an imperious exactitude, as though precision and poetry might suffice to hold modernity at bay.

Inhabited by Ralph Fiennes — not one of Anderson’s usual players, but lending this production the same outsider’s energy that Gene Hackman brought to The Royal Tenenbaums — Gustave has something in common with dutiful servants from stories like The Remains of the Day and Downton Abbey, who keep magical kingdoms running smoothly in the shadow of world war, while the lords and ladies enjoy a few last little melodramas in their old and fated world.