Critics Rave Over Wes Anderson’s Russian Nesting Doll ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

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Wes Anderson’s newest feature film The Grand Budapest Hotel hits theaters today, and it’s already drawing generally warm reviews from critics. It currently scores 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and 86 on Metacritic, and a few reviewers have even credited it as the first Anderson work to convert them into true fans. As is the case with most Anderson films, comedy plays a multi-faceted role in Budapest; The Daily Beast described it matter-of-factly as a “screwball comedy,” whereas The New York Times delved a little deeper by praising the film’s way of conjuring the “highly refined sense of nuances that separate comedy from tragedy.” Across the board, critics are unsurprisingly enchanted by the film’s signature style, layered storytelling (many reviews borrow the Russian nesting doll metaphor), intricate sets and cinematography, and unique take on nostalgia, lost time, and wartime memories of the near-distant past in the made-up setting of the Republic of Zubrowka. Here’s a closer look at what some critics have said about the film:

On how Budapest feels different than past Anderson films:

The Grand Budapest Hotel is still every inch a Wes Anderson film, but a new breed of one, since Anderson, for the first time, is out to enchant us without ”saying” anything. For me that lets him say more. (Entertainment Weekly)
The Grand Budapest Hotel tells us storytellers are bombarded with stories that aren’t their own, but that a storyteller makes them their own. For example, when you become a filmmaker, you see more films, which means those films influence you; soon you aren’t the filmmaker you were to begin with. Through what is essentially an action-packed Hollywood caper, Anderson leads us into an extremely interesting rabbit hole of discussion. He delightfully toys with standard elements of the caper picture in a hilarious, fast paced romp around war-time Europe. (Slashfilm)
The pace is slowed slightly by Anderson’s stuttered timing—a skipped beat, a moment of incomprehension—which gives the joking an air of deranged absent-mindedness. (The New Yorker)
Also elevating “Grand Budapest” is the transformative work of Fiennes as the film’s protagonist, Gustave H, the concierge’s concierge. Anderson has worked with fine actors before, but he’s frankly never had someone so capable of giving his will-o’-the-wisp world heft and reality while still being faithful to the singular spirit that underlies it.(LA Times)
Youth, age, rivalry, and mentorship? Nostalgia for a lost way of life? The ineluctable slaughterhouse of 20th-century European history? These are big, dark themes, ideas that the director (who also wrote the screenplay, with a story assist from his friend Hugo Guinness) seems both obsessed by and game to explore. But somehow Anderson never quite lets himself (or his characters, or by extension, us) get to the deepest, darkest places those paths might lead. (Slate)
As ever, Anderson’s world is created like the most magnificent full-scale doll’s house; his incredible locations, interiors and old-fashioned matte-painting backdrops sometimes give the film a look of a magic-lantern display or an illustrated plate from a book. He and the cinematographer Robert D Yeoman contrive the characteristic rectilinear camera movements and tableaux photographed head-on. The film has been compared to Hitchcock and Lubitsch; I kept thinking of Peter Greenaway. It makes the audience feel like giants bending down to admire a superbly detailed little universe: I can’t think of any film-maker who brings such overwhelming control to his films. (The Guardian)
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. There were a mere 15 years between the gruesome, senseless slaughter of World War I and the Reichstag fire that presaged the devastation of Europe by Fascists, and this magical wisp of an era would pass. The final scenes are handled with delicacy: You don’t cry so much as shiver. And then you slowly begin the readjustment to a world in which the people are less exuberant, the proportions less harmonious, the colors less vivid. (New York magazine)