(Photo from Nicohitoride, DeviantArt)
In light of Wes Anderson’s 45th birthday and the relatively new release of his latest project, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I’ve developed a sudden infatuation with his feature-length and short films. I decided to go on a Wes Anderson binge-watching spree. Among the eight films he’s directed, I watched four of them in less than a week. Of course, I had to re-watch all-time iconic favorite, The Royal Tenenbaums, which had an intriguing plot: an estranged family of washed up children geniuses come home after 17 years when they find out their habitually absent father is dying of stomach cancer. Little did the Tenenbaum children know that their father, Royal, was faking the illness to win his wife and family back. Oh, Royal was broke, too. The complicated plot reflects intricate family ties present in the modern world. Anderson’s second film, Rushmore, seemed one-dimensional to me. Its plot was similar to the complex one of The Royal Tenenbaums but the direction was not as good yet.
The Darjeeling Limited, which featured actors Anderson so fondly works with (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, and the ubiquitous Bill Murray as an extra), was set in India, as given away by the title’s Darjeeling tea produced there. Although it received pejorative criticism and garnered not even half of its production cost, I found the film to be quite distinct. The geographic setting provided the audience with an informative adventure around India, by means of a train, the Darjeeling Limited. Three estranged (makes me wonder about Anderson’s fascination with alienated families) brothers come together in a “spiritual” trip across India, which culminates in a reunion with their mother. The Whitmans experience several misadventures, leading them to getting kicked out of the train, because of their dysfunctional relationship. At the departure of their mother in the end, they learn to appreciate each other and continue on their journey together.
I would have to say 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom is a favorite among the lot. The vivid colors and straight-cut video editing gave the film an odd characteristic that captured the attention of viewers. The editing was almost satirical. The film’s two protagonists, 12-year olds Sam and Suzy, were as peculiar and eccentric as the film itself. The introverted pair of lovers immaturely decides to elope to escape Sam’s lonely situation as a foster child dumped in Camp Ivanhoe for Khaki Scouts and Suzy’s withdrawn life at home with three brothers and parents that deem her a problem child. They go off to the wilderness, surviving with Sam’s scouting skills, in hopes of finding their utopia.
I found the characters well developed and the film itself clothed with symbolism. Our misunderstood heroes may be young and naïve, but their audacity to elope, marry, and just be together, proves such innocence and resolve to be greater than the more dull and hopeless lives of the adults around them. The big storm at the end is a fantastic representation of the climax of the story, where all of the characters gather and manage to get trapped at Camp Lebanon in their attempts to find the two children. The duo was prepared to jump from a tower and possibly die together before a proposition favorable to their positions came along. A happy ending ensues when Sam is adopted and gets to see Suzy often. It’s everything you have imagined your first love to be like, but much, much more bold. Although I missed the Grand Budapest Hotel at cinemas, the trailer and cast of characters look promising enough and are sure to hit it off the park with Wes Anderson at the helm.