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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? The Grand Budapest Hotel


If the work of any filmmaker would seem a natural fit for women in nontraditional roles, it’s Wes Anderson’s, so the lack here is extra disappointing.


Could the protagonist have been female without significantly impacting the film as a whole? (for a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]

Is there a woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself? [why this matters]


Is there a woman who dies (either onscreen or off) whose death motivates a male protagonist? [why this matters]


[no issues]


Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]

Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
Is a dead father also mentioned? [why this matters]


Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)



IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: A rich old woman’s death sends two men on an odyssey, during which they are assisted by a young woman with almost supernatural powers (of pastry); once again, women with potentially interesting lives are mere supporting characters in men’s lives. If the work of any filmmaker would seem a natural fit for women in nontraditional roles, it’s Wes Anderson’s, so the lack here is extra disappointing. How much more capery, for instance, might this caper have been if the lobby “boy” was actually a girl in disguise?

Click here for the ranking of 2014’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of The Grand Budapest Hotel! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)

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where are the women
  • Hank Graham

    I have to respectfully disagree with one part of this rating, specifically the -10 points if the protaganist could have been female without it significantly impacting the film as a whole.

    While there is no particular plot point which would have changed if the protaganist had been female, it would have many different cultural and social ramifications, and it would have been a very different mood. For most of the Hollywood crap we see, that is not a big problem, as they don’t have much mood or style to begin with. Indeed, I sometimes think the big Hollywood “product” movies are actively trying to avoid such things.

    But Wes Anderson’s M. Gustave, and the movie he inhabits, are very specific creations, of a talented filmmaker with a very specific style and mood he’s trying to evoke. So in this case, I don’t agree with that small part of your rating of the film.

    Maybe you need a catchall point loss for what I’ve come, to myself, to describe as the Godfather problem. This comes from “The Godfather,” which I like a lot, but which I have to concede, the women are background music. (The phrase was Talia Shire’s, or at least, I heard her use the description in an interview and it stuck in my head.) As you’re well aware, there are a LOT of such movies.

  • LaSargenta

    I took Mr. Mustafa as the main character, and I could easily imagine young Mustafa as a young woman in that role…

  • Dissonant Robot

    Wes Anderson is a pretty darn creative and imaginative guy…I think he could have switched the main roles without changing the story/mood if he had wanted to. I think that’s really the point of that rating, to point out that you can usually swap the genders in just about any movie these days without changing much, and yet the default is still a guy.

  • As LaSargenta says, it’s Zero who is the protagonist, not Gustave. At best, they are arguably co-protagonists. I agree that it would be tough to gender-swap Gustave.

  • That is indeed the point. :-)

  • a

    MaryAnn, I remember seeing boobs of an old man in this movie and, some obscene paintings of two women ( I won’t mention what they’re doing ), shouldn’t this get subtraction of points? :-)

  • a

    Old woman*

    It was a quick shot, but regardless, she was exposed.

  • Yes, but it was in passing, not a character in the story, in an appropriate context (in bed in a sexual situation), and did not rise to the level of “a woman being used as decoration” or as titillation. I don’t deduct for that. The problem (usually) isn’t female nudity per se but *how* it is used.

    I also don’t see any issue with the painting.

  • a

    There was no point to have shown random exposed breasts, or a painting graphically depicting mutual masturbation.

    I would’ve deducted points for random, unnecessary gratuitous nudity (for what reason even? comedy? shock value? it was so out-of-nowhere) but, I guess you make sense..

  • Hank Graham

    Interesting replies, everyone.

    I can see your point about Mustafa being the main character, but I didn’t see it that way. To me, the focus seemed absolutely centered on Gustave, as an impossible ideal of past civility, and Mustafa was just an ironic, distancing way to view him. (Double-distanced, as we’re getting Mustafa’s story as told, years later, by the writer. That was something I appreciated, as it mirrors the most common opening line of any Choctaw folktale–“This happened [before the time/in the time] of my father’s father.”) I’d never even considered Mustafa as the protaganist to this tale.

    Makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

    And yes, I’d have to concede that if you see Mustafa as the protaganist (or co-protaganist), it might have been possible to swap his gender, as suggested. Although given the time and place, I don’t think it would have been easy.

    I also think it’s a sign of the richness of the film that you have several characters who can be considered in such depth.

  • Danielm80

    I thought of it as an ensemble drama, and I was surprised the ensemble didn’t include more women. Anderson’s films usually do. And it’s a really large cast.

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