william steig drawing

June 12, 2012
Kartina Richardson

Wes Anderson’s Arrested Development

My immediate reaction to Wes Anderson isn’t hatred, love, or even annoyance. It’s jealousy. After scorn-filled years spent perceiving him as a threat to my personal identity, this is the unsophisticated truth. I am not jealous of the fact that his films exist, it’s not the envy of an artist to another’s success and popularity. Instead I’m jealous that I don’t belong to the group that’s thrilled and inspired by his work. I want Anderson’s anti-authority themed films to matter to me (an anti-authority themed person), in a significant, or at least delightful way, and I’m frustrated that they don’t. And though he has his critics, it feels lonely not to fall in love with Wes Anderson.

In his new film, Moonrise Kingdom, two kids, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) fall in love and run away in the summer of 1965. Sam is an orphan and a boy scout. Suzy is a redhead with blue eyeshadow. The adults in their respective lives chase after the two: Suzy’s parents (Francis McDormand and Bill Murray) and Sam’s scout master and town sheriff (Edward Norton and Bruce Willis). The young lovers do their best to evade capture and defend their romance on beautiful overly-crafted sets meant to look exactly like overly-crafted sets. Moonrise is an extremely good looking movie, and its mood is powerful and infectious, but for me it was never more than inspiration for new eyeshadow or the urge to more carefully coordinate the colors in my kitchen…

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  1. There are too many ways in which I want to express what a perfect summation this is of my feelings about Wes Anderson’s films. You hit the nail on the head with a battle axe, bringing a few all-new revelations to me. So, rather than fawning over your review unnecessarily, I’ll just say thank you.

  2. What order did you watch his films in?
    I can’t imagine that if you saw each of his films when they came out, you could have this reaction. Your article doesn’t mention Rushmore, and I can’t imagine you would’ve had this response if you saw Rushmore in ’98 or ’99.
    I loved the title of your review, because that’s my only frustration with Wes Anderson… his arrested development. Like when a band becomes a cover band of themselves, generating nothing new and playing out the role of themselves from earlier days they were younger and more authentic. Bottle Rocket was an admirable film, and Rushmore was an instant favorite of mine. So fresh, authentic, nostalgic, charming. If I had seen it after his other films, I would not have had that reaction, because nothing that came after was half as fresh or authentic.
    I was entertained by Moonrise Kingdom, but was so disappointed that it was such a regurgitation of Rushmore. I’ve become disillusioned with Wes Anderson and wish he would continue to grow, as PT Anderson has, but there’s no recognition here of the brilliance of his initial films.


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