The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel ★★★★½

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the film with which Wes Anderson finally answers his critics, and the message could not be clearer or more immaculately embossed in Futura on an insert shot of the most delicate stationary: “Go fuck yourselves.” Anderson has been contemporary American cinema’s most hostile aesthete for well over a decade, and ever since 2003’s The Life Aquatic made it obvious that the filmmaker has exactly zero interest in apologizing for his affectations, each of his subsequent projects has been met with the kind of ecclesiastical rapture and blind derision typically reserved for racist politicians and superhero movie casting.

Rather than trying to show the naysayers that he’s capable of more than they think, Anderson has instead devoted himself to proving the value of what they think he is – rather than broadening his film universe, Anderson has narrowed, deepened and dimensionalized it, the difference between The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom being similar to that between a mural and a diorama. The framing device of The Grand Budapest Hotel would be enough in and of itself to continue Anderson’s inward trajectory, the story unfolding via a simple nesting doll structure that allows the filmmaker to practically incept himself. But The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t the most Wes Anderson film because of how densely it delivers all of the familiar tropes and fetishes (Miniatures! Orphans! Characters dangling from high places!), no, his eighth feature is a logical leap further down the rabbit hole of his own imagination because it’s the first Wes Anderson movie that’s about Wes Anderson movies.

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.


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