A Window into Anderson

About 15 years ago I went to a hastily arranged screening for an obscure indie that was slated to play at the Riverview, which meant that it would be gone in a week. 

But I went anyway, and was glad I did – the movie was fresh, energetic, stylish and seemed to herald a new, distinct voice. It was “Bottle Rocket,” Wes Anderson’s first film.

I liked his next, “Rushmore,” even better, happy to be part of the expanding Anderson bandwagon, which really started rolling with “The Royal Tenenbaums” -- right about the time I jumped off.

To me, “Tenenbaums” is where the director’s famous style started to stiffen.  Fans love his “precision,” but his control had started to flatten his characters, and what had felt artfully arranged now felt mannered and thin. Ditto “Life Aquatic.” “Darjeeling” was a chore – the scene of Anderson’s three protagonists, in cute outfits, posing over the body of a drowned Indian child, struck me as very poorly judged, borderline offensive. (One of the men was Owen Wilson, and Slate published an interesting piece about his important writing contributions to Anderson’s early work).

By this point, other filmmakers began copying Anderson’s style, and I had the feeling that one of the directors who’d fallen into the trap of imitating Anderson’s style was Anderson.

Did he think so too? “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was a new direction, new medium. He seemed ideally at home telling a children’s story. Which brings us to “Moonrise Kingdom,” a comic story about children (runway tweens), but really a story ABOUT childhood, in this case a last idyllic stop on the road to adult disappointment (I think he reveals himself in the Bill Murray/Frances McDormand bedroom scene). There’s a very nice scene of Anderson’s runways in a blue lagoon of sequestered, romantic perfection, a dream punctured by an army of interfering adults. This space, on the cusp of adulthood, is the director’s sweet spot.

I don’t know if it’s call it ecstatic, as does Richard Brody, but it’s one of his better movies.