The Grand Budapest Hotel is another excellent, eccentric fantasy from Wes Anderson that has surprisingly factual things to say about the audience’s conventional world.
High atop a mountain in the fictional alpine Republic of Zubrowka, The Grand Budapest Hotel exists to offer the essence of comfort to its 1930s clientele. Its silver-service standards are the care and concern of Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the establishment’s devoted concierge. And it is here that the young refugee Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori) comes seeking a job as a bellboy. What he learns, along with M. Gustave’s impeccable ideals, is that many of the Grand Budapest’s rich women return year after year for his mentor’s special ‘services’. However when one of elderly crones dies, leaving M. Gustave a valuable painting, the family cries murder. Gustav is imprisoned but Zero is convinced of his innocence. What follows is a twisting tale that gathers in a murky prison, an unprincipled assassin, a high-speed toboggan chase and a secret society of hotel concierges in a story that is equal parts disturbing and delightful. And when the hero finally stands triumphant – as indeed he must – we learn that the greatest things about some personalities are the gifts they impart to others.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a worthy visual successor to Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox, delivering Anderson’s trademark montage of quirky detail that encompasses everything from the building’s grand façade down to its trademark pastries. Its characters are just as detailed and include a vast number of bit parts played to perfection by big names like Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum and Jude Law, just to name a few. But the long list of contributors doesn’t overwhelm the story, a quirky but intensely human drama about the mentors who shape us.
M. Gustave is a well-perfumed, impeccably dressed master with obvious feet of clay. But they don’t prevent him from imparting to Zero a string of important lessons. These include teaching Zero to not only understand his duties but the guests who benefit from them:
“Rudeness is only an expression of fear. The most horrid person is only so because they fear they won’t get what they want.”
In fact M. Gustave might look like he’s just trying to whip a young bellboy into shape but he’s actually demonstrating the best characteristic a mentor can offer: the desire to see his protégé progress. Sometimes this involves criticism and rebuke. Other times it involves calling to mind standards that society may have already turned its back on, as Zero later realized:
“His world had vanished long before he entered it but he certainly sustained the illusion with grace.”
It also frequently involves doses of encouragement and fierce instances of loyalty. But a mentor is never just a supporter.
One of the popular misconceptions about mentoring is that the life coaches we choose owe it to us to cheer us on in every circumstance. I’ve even heard a mentor criticized because he, “… always wanted to teach me something.” But that view begins with the assumption that we’ve already arrived at the best model of person we can be. Zero learned that Gustav was not only his ‘counsellor’ but his ‘guardian’. Jesus, too, tells us that the good mentor is one who is liberal with whatever God has given him:
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart … For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
– and these ‘good things’ can just as frequently come in the form of warnings from hard-won lessons. These are the ‘faithful wounds’ that the book of Proverbs assures us can still come from a friend. The lesson is simple: never be satisfied with a mentor who speaks only sugar when salt is needed.
In the end The Grand Budapest owes its grandness to one man who was determined to challenge himself and others to reach for the highest standard. M. Gustave is clearly no Christ, but by the end of the film we might all wish for someone in our lives who was so devoted to our growth.
Release Date: April 10