Born in 1749 in Frankfurt, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe would go on to become one of Deutschland's most significant writers, setting the tone for much of the nation's significant contributions to the Western literary canon. Before he penned the poems and novels that made him such a celebrated figure, Goethe experienced the highs and lows of life, love and heartbreak. Also, he apparently hung out with his buddies, got incredibly high and inebriated ("Sturm...und Drank!"), and pissed "Kiss my ass" in the snow for his stuffed-shirt elders to see. You can't accuse Philipp Stlzl's portrait of taking itself too seriously as it initially delves into the author's precelebrity years, practically painting the poet as the Van Wilder of 18th-century letters. (The movie's original German title was simply Goethe!, and you wish its American distributors had gone with something equally exclamatory: Oh Goethe, You Devil! or Faust-er, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!)
Then his true love, Lotte Buff (Stein), enters the picture, and the madcap antics are substituted for culinary courting, cutesy missed connections and kissing in the rain. Cool, it's a rom-com featuring the man who'd influence Romanticism. But hold your horses, folks, because there's still the matter of Goethe's boss and romantic rival (Bleibtreu), and the prison sentence that would find our hero penning his first major work, The Sorrows of Young Werther. At this point, the film's Great-Man-itis kicks into high gear, and what was an irreverent look at genius becomes just another irrelevant biopic. Where's a lets-make-a-deal Beelzebub when you need one?
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