A letter to that most dear to our hearts director extraordinaire: Wes Anderson
Dear Wes Anderson,
Hey buddy! It was good to see you again the other day! I was glad to see the color and substance return to your films — that Life Aquatic period of yours made you look pretty weak and tired, but The Darjeeling Limited really let me know that you were back in action! Ready to roll! Cranking out quality!
Seriously though, Wes, I had a couple of thoughts I wanted to share with you, mano a mano, if you have a second. Don’t get the wrong idea, I thoroughly enjoyed Darjeeling. It was beautiful, tightly-made, well-soundtracked — all those things you do so well. The family ties seemed even more genuine than those of the Royal Tenenbaums, and I should know, right? I certainly have siblings aplenty, and we’ve had our share of grief to handle badly, just like Francis, Jack, and Peter Whitman in the film, so I think the theme that people run away from their primal emotions rather than dealing with them is totally legit. I think people really understand what it feels like to look at the people you’re related to and think “Who are these people and why do they get to have the same personal painful moments as I do?” Totally! I mean it, Wes! I really do!
I just feel like maybe no one has wanted to hurt your feelings by telling you this, but we know, Wes. We know about your methods. You know how William Shatner seems a little pathetic now when he does something kooky? At first you’re like “Ha! William Shatner! You’re really breaking down stereotypes!” but then later on he just sorta seems like one of those kids who gets a laugh once and then repeats the same joke over and over again? Well, your William Shatner side is starting to show. I’m so sorry. I love you. Seriously. I hate that I just said that to you. We all know you love colors, framing, and right angles. Your deadpan pacing in Rushmore made it a classic. You were a young upstart, full of promise. We took you into our fold and eagerly anticipated what Wes Anderson would do for the world of cinema. We became your fiercely loyal fan base. We sneered at anybody who dared to criticize Tenenbaums and we quoted Bottle Rocket incessantly. We even smiled wanly at The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, hiding even from ourselves our secret disappointment that we were not bowled over with its ingenuity.
We allowed ourselves to believe that Darjeeling Limited was going to put you back on the map. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, dude, but it is just not enough. Completely solid and smart, true, but a copy of any one of your other films? Sadly, this is also true. I feel you, man. I know that branding yourself as a consistently good filmmaker has got to be appealing, but you’re not Coca-Cola. You don’t have to use the exact same typeface for all of your film’s title credits. You might think that it’s your signature thing and therefore crucial to your career, but it’s becoming embarrassing. Mix it up, Wes. Throw in a different Wilson. Tell Anjelica Huston that she can take a load off, that you’ll find a different mom for this film. Try another device other than slow motion to highlight important emotional catharses for your characters. And for God’s sake, stop with the overt symbolism! Owen Wilson‘s character takes off his bandages too early, only to find his facial wounds still in bad shape, and actually says OUT LOUD “I guess I still have some healing to do”? The three brothers’ train is leaving without them, so they drop their actual family baggage (in slow motion) in order to catch it? I know you want to help us out because these devices might be too much for our little ol’ brains to accommodate, and we appreciate it, but I promise you, we would be happy to wade through some subtlety if you need us to. We can even help each other out if it gets too confusing, but I think we’ll be OK.
Remember that scene in The Royal Tenenbaums when Luke Wilson (whose strong chin I sorely missed in this film, actually) puts all joking aside and tries to kill himself in a series of jump cuts, and there’s a hurried montage of his family rushing to the hospital? Ahh! There was urgency, panic, and anguish for a few glorious seconds! That was fresh! That was new! That was groundbreaking for you! Let’s see more of that! Darjeeling came close to approximating that kind of raw emotion, but it felt like you just couldn’t get out of the stylistic prison in which you have incarcerated yourself. No, no, Wes. Stop. I don’t need you to make a film about a director who literally sends himself to jail. Look, you’ve already got one foot pointed in the right direction. Jason Schwartzman, Jason Schwartzman’s mustache, and Adrien Brody were nice and refreshing, an oasis in the Indian desert, if you will. Brody in particular, whose worried eyebrows resisted any pressure he must have received to be straight-faced, filled the film with a lot of the life it needed. The opening scene was great also, I liked how you psyched us out with Bill Murray. Just…stop focusing on the font and the music, and keep thinking of new ideas! Artists need to grow! We will still love you if you make a new film, Wes Anderson. We will support you. Don’t be afraid. Drop your baggage, heal your facial wounds, and go out on a limb.
In the meantime, I’ll be home re-watching Rushmore on DVD, like all the other cool kids, waiting for you to wow me. I know you can do it.