Moviegoers checking into "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson's new movie about a swashbuckling concierge and his dutiful protege in 1930s Europe, will encounter many of the director's aesthetic idiosyncrasies, such as dollhouse-like sets, quirky characters and deadpan dialogue.
According to film critics, however, "Grand Budapest" isn't just a movie for Anderson aficionados — it's an accomplished work that deserves attention even from nonbelievers.
The Times' Kenneth Turan writes that while Anderson's films can be "hermetic, even stifling," his latest "is anything but." In "Grand Budapest," Turan says, "the writer-director's familiar style blends with a group of unexpected factors to create a magnificently cockeyed entertainment."
Of particular note is "the transformative work of [Ralph] 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."
A.O. Scott of the New York Times says the film "will delight [Anderson's] fans, but even those inclined to grumble that it's just more of the same patented whimsy might want to look again. As a sometime grumbler and longtime fan, I found myself not only charmed and touched but also moved to a new level of respect."
There is, Scott says, "a lot of integrity here and also a good deal of ambition." He adds, "This movie makes a marvelous mockery of history, turning its horrors into a series of graceful jokes and mischievous gestures. You can call this escapism if you like. You can also think of it as revenge."
NPR's Ian Buckwalter says that "Grand Budapest" is the "culmination of the tinkly music-box aesthetic of Anderson's work to date, turned up to 11. If you've already tuned out, all the two dimensional tracking shots, whip-pans, color coordination and stop-motion animation is going to come crashing down on you like a truckload of playfully plinking harpsichords. But if you meet Anderson on his terms, you'll reach the end and just want more."
He adds, "There's so much going on here, a constant stream of jokes, plot contrivances, film references, and images overladen with gorgeous detail, that it might all collapse in on itself if not for the relationship between Gustave and his young protege Zero [newcomer Tony Revolori]," which "gives the movie a beating heart."
USA Today's Claudia Puig declares "Grand Budapest Hotel" a "mature, intricately layered visual delight." She adds that "Fiennes is brilliant as the haughty, refined and sexually ambiguous Gustave. A fascinating scoundrel who's also fiercely loyal and ridiculously witty, Gustave wears a purple tuxedo and is perhaps Anderson's most memorable character since 'Rushmore's' Max Fischer."
Amy Nicholson of the L.A. Weekly says that "'Grand Budapest' is Anderson's most mature film, and his most visually witty, too. It's playful without being self-congratulatory, and somehow lush without being cloying." She adds, "For once, I'll allow Anderson his fripperies. With Gustave, he's made us sympathizers in his own fight for beautiful trifles, as though he sees his films as the front line in the battle against crass, cash-in blockbusters."
Not every critic has been charmed by the film. Slate's Dana Stevens writes, "Gustave is one of Anderson’s more memorable creations — but he's stranded in a movie that, for all its gorgeous frills and furbelows … never seemed to me to be quite sure what it was about." She adds, "Though there's more swearing and more blood than are usually to be found in this director's work … everything remains in that familiar register of chilly, stylish remove."