Ralph Fiennes stars as an effete concierge and reviewers are by and large charmed
Wes Anderson returns with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and critics by and large enjoyed their latest stay with the indie auteur and his dollhouse approach to moviemaking.
Initial reviews for the comic fable have been strong, earning an 89 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” centers on an urbane concierge (Ralph Fiennes) with a penchant for seducing his hotel's rich and elderly guests. That lands him into trouble with the law and sends him and his young protege Zero (Tony Revolori) scurrying across Europe. It's a triumph of production design, even if it lacks the emotional weight of such previous Anderson ventures as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” Ticket buyers are encouraged to check in.
In TheWrap, Alonso Duralde said the film is rich and decadent fun, but doesn't linger long after the final credits roll. He compared it to a sugar rush. Duralde praised Fiennes’ performance as the consummate servant, but said his comic flourishes prevented it from having enough weight to anchor the film.
“Seeing ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ was one of the most exciting film-watching experiences I've had in months; I just wish remembering it later carried the same resonance,” Duralde wrote.
New York magazine's David Edelstein hailed Anderson's visual palate. The look and feel of the film are faultless, he argued. Where he did have minor quibbles were in the characters, which too often served as cardboard cutouts rather than flesh and blood creations.
“There is, to be fair, a case you can make for the movie's campy ingenuousness,” Edelstein wrote. “It seduces you even as Anderson hints at the deadliness lurking in this high society's margins. It leaves you undefended for the final emotional wallop.”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a triumph of an artist at the height of his powers, raved HitFix's Drew McWeeny. He went on to hail the film's story within a story within a story structure.
“Not since ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’ has Anderson had such a perfect reason to indulge every one of his strengths as a filmmaker, and to see him in such peak form here makes me think we are still just beginning to see what he can do,” McWeeny wrote. “He seems to be reveling in the very act of storytelling with this film, and so much of the text is about how stories are told or why we need them to be told to us that it feels like a bit of an exercise, but it also has more soul than many of his films. It feels like it matters.”
The film is a richly imagined, brightly colored triumph that ranks among Anderson's best, SlashFilm's Germain Lussier argued. It continues Anderson's mid-career grove, one that picked up steam with 2009's “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and showed no sign of flagging with 2012's “Moonrise Kingdom.”
“Anderson's last film, ‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ showed his growth as a filmmaker through a sensitive, heartfelt story of innocence,” Lussier wrote. “With ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ he continues to evolve, making a film that's entertaining and fun on the surface, but told in a way that almost questions its very existence.”
Some reviewers thought Anderson got lost in the richly imagined interior design of its pre-World War I hotels, railway stations and other symbols of old world opulence. It's all surface, Slate's Dana Stevens complained.
“The voice-over epilogue hastily relates several important characters’ shockingly bleak fates–then quickly gives way to a playful credit sequence scored to sprightly balalaika music,” Stevens wrote. “I'd like to think of this as Anderson dancing on the brink of the abyss, but it still feels like he's leaving a healthy margin between himself and the edge.”
Anderson's fingerprints are all over “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and even though they may not register on his impeccable vision of a pristine and nearly forgotten past, that's a problem, New York Post's Kyle Smith laments.
“That's Wes Anderson: He can't see the forest for the twee,” Smith wrote.