Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Film fans have been anticipating The Grand Budapest Hotel since just after the credits rolled on Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson is one of a select group of filmmakers who can be relied upon to craft a special film, no matter what it is about or who is in it. With Anderson’s latest kicking off the Berlin Film Festival Thursday, the first batch of reviews have hit Twitter and various websites. They’re almost uniformly ecstatic.
The Grand Budapest Hotel opens March 7 in the U.S. but read some of the first reviews below.
….A captivating 1930s-set caper whose innumerable surface pleasures might just seduce you into overlooking its sly intelligence and depth of feeling. As intricately layered as a Dobos torte and nearly as rich, this twisty tale of murder, theft, conspiracy and unlikely friendship finds its maker in an unusually ambitious and expansive mood — still arranging his characters in detail-perfect dioramas, to be sure, but with a bracing awareness of the fascism, war and decay about to encroach upon their lovingly hand-crafted world. The result is no musty nostalgia trip but rather a vibrant and imaginative evocation of a bygone era, with a brilliant lead performance from Ralph Fiennes that lends Anderson’s latest exercise in artifice a genuine soul.
With an attention to design detail that now has perhaps morphed from a preoccupation into a mania, this is as densely aestheticized an experience as has come from a quasi-mainstream American filmmaker in many a moon. In a very appealing if outre way, its sensibility and concerns are very much those of an earlier, more elegant era, meaning that the film’s deepest intentions will fly far over the heads of most modern filmgoers. Fox Searchlight can hope that the work’s boisterous, sometimes bizarre humor, as played by a colorful cast, will be sufficient to attract a sizable slice of the audience that made Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom, his second-biggest hit.
Wes Anderson’s dazzling new “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is course after course of desserts: marzipans, macarons, crème brûleé, tiramisu and profiteroles, presented with a flourish and served so promptly that you can barely catch your breath between treats. It’s not until an hour or two has passed that you realize, for all the wonderful flavors and beautiful plates, that you haven’t really eaten anything.
A four-tiered confection that moves with the wild energy of Fantastic Mr. Fox but lingers with a more brutal, weaponized version of the wistfulness that haunted Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a caper comedy about how the rise of fascism in the 1930s robbed an entire continent of its civility. More literally, it’s about Ralph Fiennes providing an 84-year-old Tilda Swinton with such regular and divine sexual satisfaction that several people meet their gruesome deaths as a direct result of her octogenarian pleasure. It’s Wes Anderson’s third consecutive home run, but more importantly it’s the only one of his films to make all of them better.
This meticulously appointed dollhouse of a movie just went on and on, making me want to smash many miniature plates of plaster food in frustration. I would apologize afterward, of course, because I’m that kind of mouse. But not even the jaunty, percussive score by Alexandre Desplat left a mark: Too much of it sounds recycled from the truly great score Desplat wrote for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Once again, Anderson has left me unmoved.
Over the years, Wes Anderson’s movies have steadily developed a lush, eccentric world that operates on its own terms, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” excels at exploring it. Anderson’s colorful period piece reflects the sensibilities of its creator at the height of his artistic confidence. While it notably draws from preexisting material — namely, the writings of Viennese intellectual Stefan Zweig, though Anderson has also tipped his hat to various other wartime literature — one of America’s most distinguished modern auteurs has spun his clutter of reference points into a collage-like fantasy adventure so clearly fused with the rest of his oeuvre that it belongs to the writer-director more than anyone else.
From the opening frames of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (which opened the Berlinale Thursday and hits screens stateside via Fox Searchlight on March 7) you know you are in Wes Anderson Land. It’s lush and gorgeous and colorful and twee and utterly obviously fake. And it’s hilarious, with a sprawling cast of comedians–led by the remarkable Ralph Fiennes as the concierge, M. Gustave– crammed into every nook and cranny. The movie is infectiously fun, and looks as if everyone–from the actors and the writer-director, cinematographer (Robert Yeoman), production designer (Adam Stockhausen) and costume designer (Milena Canonero) on down, are having a fabulous time.
Finally, a few tweets:
Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s best and most consistent world building attempt, but sacrifices relatability for quirk.
— Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm) February 6, 2014
About GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: Yes, it's as good as you've heard. Seen it twice now; first time, elaborate fun; second, depth, weight.
— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) February 6, 2014
Grand Budapest Hotel is a deeply layered, much darker film than I expected. But still enjoyable & engaging. Seeing it a second time tonight.
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) February 6, 2014
And if you want even MORE, The Film Stage has complied pretty much every review out there.