July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Wes Anderson was the first director to really Speak To Me, to make me think of the role the director played in the movie at all. Before that, I paid attention to the actors, maybe the screenwriter . . . but the director, let alone all those other peons like the set designer and the lighting designer? Who cares? Then I saw The Royal Tenenbaums in the theater as an impressionable 18-year-old, and was lost forever. Rushmore, which I saw on my college campus a few months later, became my favorite movie for years. Suddenly I realized that all these things like “shot composition” and “props” were arranged as carefully as every line I wrote in the poems for my creative writing class-well, in a good movie, at least. Wes Anderson was my awakening.
Anderson is the only director I can think of whose films I’ve seen all of, whose career I’ve actually followed. And while I don’t connect to his movies emotionally the way I did when I was 18 and identified with Max, wanted to be Margot . . . I still make it a point to see his movies in the theater rather than waiting until DVD like I do with almost everything else. I was so attached to the earlier ones that I’m never sure if my lack of connection to the later ones is because they’re actually not as good or just because I’m not 18 anymore. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou didn’t grab me at all. The Darjeeling Limited was uneven and felt overly recycled from his earlier work, and let’s not even get into the problematic Mystical India Saves the Westerners trope. Fantastic Mr. Fox was good–a step in the right direction–but I thought it could have been great (or maybe my expectations were a little too high, since Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of my favorite books as a kiddo). But Moonrise Kingdom? Now we’re back. Reviews have been referring to it as the Wes Andersoniest of all Wes Anderson’s movies–both as an insult and a compliment–and it’s completely true. All the standard Wes Anderson tropes are there–the color schemes, the symmetrical shots, the dollhouse-like cutaways of houses, the outdated props. But more important is the way he treats his characters.
The thing that always drew me to Rushmore (and to a lesser extent, The Royal Tenenbaums) was the way Anderson managed to blend this sense of emotional distance from his characters with a tenderness that redeemed them. You were supposed to laugh at Max, and you were supposed to shake your head in dismay at Royal Tenenbaum, but the films presented them so affectionately that regardless of your laughter or dismay, you still wanted to root for them–even when you knew that what they were doing was wrong. That sense of tenderness diminished in The Life Aquatic and disappeared almost completely in The Darjeeling Limited, but I’m so happy it’s back in Moonrise Kingdom.