Wes Anderson is an American director and screenwriter. His films are known for unique visual and narrative styles that have become synonymous with his work. His work includes the movies Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenebaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Many of his films have been nominated for Best Original Screenplay and his most recent film helped him receive his first nomination for Best Director. His movies are usually fast-paced comedies that also deal with series themes, elements, and events. Examples of these include grief, loss of innocence, parental abandonment, sibling rivalry, and unlikely friendships. His movies are character driven and his plots deal with thefts or unexpected disappearances. In terms of cinematography, the use of camera styles is what helps give these series themes a comedic element. Wes uses flat space camera movements, symmetrical compositions, slow-motion shots, limited color settings, and hand made art such as miniature set designs. These help give elements of surrealism in stories and topics that would usually not include such elements. Many of his film soundtracks include songs from the 1960s or 1970s, and the music from the film is mostly dominated by one musical such as The Velvet Underground in Rushmore, David Bowie in The Life Aquatic, The Kinks in The Darjeeling Limited, The Beach Boys in Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Hank Williams in Moonrise Kingdom. The Grand Budapest Hotel was his first movie to have a classical score in favor of a pop one due to its setting in the 1930s. It took me a while to get into his work as I did not enjoy his humor when I was younger (and the comedy flew right over my head), but over the past couple of years I have really enjoyed his movies (The Grand Budapest being my favorite by him), and I really look forward to what he is going to do next.
Bottle Rocket (1996):
Rushmore (1998): 8.65/10
– Wes Anderson’s second film was able to accomplish a lot. It helped move him from an independent director to a well-established and respected director (enabling his next film a bigger budget and more well-known actors/actresses), it established Bill Murray as an respected actor in independent cinema as well as in the big budget roles he was previously known for, and it launched the career of Jason Schwartzman. Like many of Wes Anderson films, this film heavily relies on the performance of its main character, something incredibly risky for someone who was starring in his first movie ever. Since then, Jason has proven himself as a wonderful actor in many different styles, but he really shines here. He plays a 15 year old boy named Max Fischer who attends a private school in Houston, Texas. He is a mature, intelligent, and eccentric teenager who would rather be engaging in random clubs that he creates than getting good grades in his classes. He becomes friends with Herman Blume (played by Bill Murray), who is a rich industrialist and father of two boys at Rushmore. He admires the attitudes and beliefs of Max and Max admires Herman’s success and wealth. Things become difficult for the two as they both take a liking to the same woman, Rosemary Cross (played by Olivia Williams), an elementary teacher at Rushmore. The chemistry between the two actors is fun as they are able to engage in a childlike rivalry that transcends the age barriers. Max also clashes with the school’s headmaster (played by Brian Cox), which reminds me of certain scenes from the movie Animal House. Other characters really help the film as the cast is full of interesting characters. Dirk (played by Mason Gamble) is the best friend of Max, and adds another interesting age dynamic as he is much younger than Max, but also mature and intelligent. Sara Tanaka plays Margaret Yang, the girl that is interested in Max. And Luke Wilson even has a cameo as Peter, a friend of Rosemary. Overall, it is a very funny movie which brings up interesting questions of growing up and keys to success. It may not be the best Wes Anderson film, but it is very impressive for just his second film in the movie business.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): 8.75
– This movie was the introduction for a lot of people to Wes Anderson and his distinct style of filmmaking. This was his first movie to receive an Academy Award Nomination (for Best Original Screenplay), something that 2 more of his movies have been able to accomplish as well. I remember when this movie came out, and how people were talking about it. I was only 10 at the time, and I had only watched bits and pieces of it before I had decided it wasn’t for me. I remember my parents talking about this movie to other people about how different a movie it was from the style they were used to and how funny it was if you were really following along with it. Little did we know that Wes was going to create a legacy off making movies just like that. The movie begins with three extremely gifted sibling who achieve success in their youth. However, their lives start to experience disappointment and failure after their eccentric father (played by Gene Hackman) leaves them in their adolescent years due to a divorce. The movie then picks up about 20 years later when the father gets kicked out of his living situation and wants to try and rekindle his relationship with his family. The children as adults are played by Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson plays the adult version of their childhood friend, Anjelica Huston plays the mother of the three children, Danny Glover plays her love interest, and Bill Murray plays the wife of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character. The movie tackles typical topics seen in popular movies such as the dysfunction of family, and it tackles it with the style of Wes Anderson. The eccentricities, absurdities, and ironies are out in full force, mixed in with dead pan roles from certain characters for good measure. Ben Stiller gives one of his best performances of his career in this film and the film is filled with memorable scene after memorable scene. This is still the favorite Wes Anderson film for a lot of people and they would probably want me to rate it higher, but there are just certain things that I think Wes does better in other films. However, seeing it recently did make me appreciate it more and what he was able to get from this great cast.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004): 9/10
– This is the first Wes Anderson film I saw (from start to finish), and it is still one of my favorites. I’ve known this movie to isolate people. There are some who consider it one of Wes Anderson’s funniest films, and there are some to consider it his most boring work. The film is both a parody and an homage to the late great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Bill Murray plays the title role and the film follows his ocean adventures as he sets sail to find the creature who ate one of his former friends and crewman. If the plot sounds like Moby Dick to you, you’re right. It takes the same basic premise and transforms it in a way that only Wes Anderson could do. The delivery of the film is very deadpan and underwhelming in the action scenes, which is what tends to lose half of the viewers who watch this film. In addition to that, the style of the movie has interesting elements such as obviously fake animation to depict real wildlife and side shots looking into the rooms of a boat which make the vessel look fake as well. These elements do not help with the viewers suspension of disbelief, which is what gives this movie a somewhat surreal feeling while watching it. The viewer is battling the deadpan with extravagant, the mundane with the fantastic, and that is what makes it such a unique viewing experience. Because of that, moments of the film remind me of Bill Murray’s role in the Soffia Coppola film Lost in Translation. In addition to the previously mentioned elements, each member of the crew (played by people such as Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson) is interesting in their own rite and brings their own charm (whether good or bad) to the film. The film also has a David Bowie soundtrack (both originals and covers in Portuguese) which is sure to please any fan of his music. All in all, I can understand if this film is not for you, but if you are a fan of Wes Anderson’s other films and did not enjoy this movie the first time, I would highly recommend giving it another chance with a different set of eyes.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007): 8.7/10
– Probably Wes Anderson’s least talked about movie, in my opinion. After such a fan splitting movie like Life Aquatic, and right before such a universally loved movie like Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited seems like it work as a Wes Anderson fan pleaser more than one of his movies that makes a bigger statement. However, I disagree with that. I think that this movie has a lot of heart and soul in it, and the reason is because of the excellent use of character development. The movie follows three brothers, played by Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, and Jason Schwartzman. The three brother meet on a train in India after a year of not seeing each other. The last time they saw each other was their father’s funeral. Owen Wilson’s character decides that this trip should be used to bring them closer together as brothers (while also fulfilling a certain need that he tells them about later). They are very untrusting of each other and often tell each other information while not telling the other one. Adrian Brody’s character is going through the struggles of preparing to be a father. Jason Schwartzman’s character is still obsessed with his ex girlfriend. And Owen Wilson’s character is recovering from a motor cycle accident. This movie benefits not only from the great performances of the three brothers, but also the beautiful landscapes, buildings, colors, and people of India. In addition, it also has the benefit of interesting side characters and occasional cameos. The chief steward of the train (played by Waris Ahluwalia) does an excellent job of keeping his train in order (reminding me of Gustave with the Grand Budapest Hotel). The movie takes a turn towards the middle as the signature Wes Anderson style actually gets darker than usual, focusing on the realism of the situations at hand, and Wes does a good job of throwing in a flashback so that we can see how our characters were a year ago (a time period that they often reference). It may not bring about as many laughs as other Wes Anderson films, but it has enough to stay entertained throughout and it’s worth watching multiple times.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009):
Moonrise Kingdom (2012): 8.5
– With such a consistent release of movies, it is hard to say which ones are more popular, well-known, or critically acclaimed. It is hard to say which film demonstrates the Wes Anderson style the best. Others may argue that titles like that belong to his other films, which could very well be the case. But in my opinion, no discussion would be complete without Moonrise Kingdom. In my own experience, I have not met a person who did not like this film. The strength of this film lies in its two leading roles. The film is filled with typical Wes Anderson actors such as Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, and Jason Schwartzman in addition to other big name actors like Bruce Willis, but it is in fact the two newcomers that steal the show. The movie (set in 1965 on a New England island) follows two 12 year old kids who met the previous year and have been pen pals ever since. Through letters to each other, they have fallen in love, and have decided to run away together. Both kids are introverted, but are also mature and highly intelligent. This contradiction is what makes the movie so interesting. We see serious subject matters such as love through the innocence of these two children. We see what these two kids are willing to risk for each other. They are constantly faced with getting in trouble from adults such as parents or scout leaders. And yet, they go through it all anyway. Such acts of love are unique to see in films that deal with adults, let alone kids, which makes this movie really unique. The film is filled with typical Wes humor alongside the slight tension that comes from kids braving the countryside, its weather, and the scouts that are searching for them. It may not be as fast paced as The Grand Budapest Hotel, but this film has a lot of heart to it which is why it deserves the response that people give it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): 9.25/10
– For a detailed review about The Grand Budapest Hotel, click the link below: