Spoiler Disclaimer- No real issues with that in this post. I’ll keep everything spoiler free.
I’ll always put that spoiler disclaimer at the start of any post in which I’m reviewing a work of fiction, but it feels odd here. I don’t think anyone really goes to see Wes Anderson movie for the plot. Characters? Yes. Dialogue? Absolutely. Cinematography? Yup. Sense that you’re in a completely different yet somehow plausible world? Without a doubt. Plot? Possible, but it always feels like Wes Anderson makes interesting characters and a good plot simply falls into place as a result.
Make no mistake, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Wes Anderson movie. Within the first ten minutes we’re inside a flashback that’s inside a flashback that’s inside a book. Maybe 30 seconds of the movie is set in what would be the present. We follow the story of a young and newly hired lobby boy at the Grand Budapest as he grows up and takes ownership of the hotel. It is set in a fictional country somewhere in eastern Europe with the decent into world war one playing a roll in the background.
A special note should be added about the casting. This movie has Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, and Jeff Goldblum. Between them all that’s 17 Oscar nominations. I do have a minor nitpick about such a star studded cast, particularly with so many of them playing small cameos. Bill Murray’s character has maybe one minute of screen time. When he appears I felt suddenly pulled out of the movie because it didn’t feel like a character on screen. It felt like Bill Murray and I think much of that feeling is due to the brief nature of some of the actors’ appearances. Don’t get me wrong, much of this cast has worked with Wes Anderson before and it’s a compliment to him as a director that so much talent is happy to appear in his movies even for just a cameo. I also wouldn’t want to deprive the world of Bill Murray’s mustache in this film, see the following link. 
Another special note(if I do too many of these they won’t really be special will they?) should be added about the hotel itself. It is presented in typical Wes Anderson pink, and although it can be tough to ignore the people on screen, try to pay attention to the hotel. The wallpapers are ever changing and brilliant. All the little backrooms, cubbyholes, nooks, and crannies shown make it feel like there is so much more to this building. The slow aging of the building as it suffers through the years along with our main character is also on enthralling display.
In my intro I mentioned the world being obviously different but extremely plausible. There is a piece of writing in this movie I found to be absolutely brilliant. At one point there is an organization brought in called the Society of the Crossed Keys. They come in to move the plot along and then leave. If this were to happen in a different movie it would have felt like a contrived Deus Ex Machina. Somehow Anderson makes this organization feel like they’ve always been there and of course this is how they operate and it would make sense for this to happen. It is an impressive bit of writing and world building to throw in details you don’t need to give back story to because they already feel at home in the setting you’ve spent the whole movie fleshing out.
There are some scenes that I felt went on too long, one scene in a prison in particular. Overall the movie clips along at a good pace and has an enchanting combination of formality and vulgarity. If someone really doesn’t like Wes Anderson films, this won’t convert them. If you do like Wes Anderson then I doubt I could have said anything to dissuade you from going to see it, but if you’re near a place that is showing it and you have a friend who is on the fence, bring them along and they’ll consider it time in the theater well spent.
★★★★☆ – Wes Anderson isn’t for everyone, but this is high quality film making that deserves your time. A reminder of my star system.