Another post to defend my directorial choices to Judgey McJudgerson James.
I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I am a lover of quirky things, fastidious dedication to detail, and downplayed humor, and with Wes Anderson you get all three wrapped in a beautiful 2-hour long experience. When truly, truly pressed for an actual favorite film, I will say The Royal Tenenbaums (but that is only when I can't give a much longer list, or at least a list that can include Clue and Rear Window--but that is just because it seems the most academic of the three, and we all know how pretentious I am.) But it really is super high on my list. It's a movie I can watch in any mood. It's a movie I've written at least two different term papers on. (The one for 102, I turned in on pink paper as an allusion to the pink walls of the Tenenbaum house. How nerdy am I?) I love Bottle Rocket. I love Rushmore. I love The Life Aquatic. And after a couple of viewings, I love The Darjeeling Limited. And what's not to love about The Fantastic Mr. Fox? (Owen Wilson explaining the rules of 'Whack Bat' alone!)
Like Woody Allen, Wes Anderson uses the same font*- futura - for all of his credits. He also has a lived in/beaten up luxury feeling to all of his films. But to be somewhat brief, let's just focus on The Royal Tenebaums, ok?
To anyone paying any sort of attention to set design, Wes Anderson is a master. The house on Archer Ave. in The Royal Tenenbaums is not only beautiful and intricate, but it has a visual story and gives us background that supports the action. The decorations on the wall are as old as the emotional baggage that accompanies each member of the family, and like the unaddressed feelings, the decor remains unchanged in a state of arrested development.
Can we talk about costume design? How awesome it is to have GP running around in Lacoste polo dresses and barrettes, just like she did as a child, but now adding a fur coat and a Birkin (and that wooden finger)? Or how Chaz and his sons live everyday in matching red track suits, presumably to be spotted quickly in the event of another tragedy. Or Eli's urban cowboy look ("And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight") I die. Again, it is a visual cue that supports the story and enlightens us about the characters.
The soundtrack is so amazing also, but not just because homegirl over here loves Me & Julio, The Clash, and Velvet Underground. Every time Eli is doing something drug related The Clash plays in the background. Or the music during [SPOILER ALERT] Richie's suicide attempt is Elliott Smith, and afterward Nick Drake, both of whom were severely depressed and suspected of suicide, though Elliott Smith's didn't happen for another two years after the film came out. Or when Margot's leaving Raleigh for home and her ice cream outing with Royal are both served by Vince Guaraldi's 'Christmas Time is Here' - a song that is in direct counterpoint with itself, such happy lyrics to such a mournful little tune that it provides the perfect background for the extremely strained relations between father and adopted daughter.
You can have a beautifully decorated movie without any real substance [cough James Cameron cough], but Wes Anderson doesn't do that. This is a story about the greatest aspects of our human condition - seeking and then finding acceptance, learning how to be satisfied with yourself and daily victories great or small, and most importantly seeking and then finding redemption. Royal starts out on his journey looking for a place to go because he is broke. He ends up learning how to forget his selfish desires and focus on the well being of his children and estranged wife. As a result, the rest of the characters are able to progress past their self-imposed barriers and paralyzing expectations of genius. Hopefully we as viewers and thus participants in the story get a little closer to that too. And with that we leave this fictionalized and stylized New York.
*That paper for 102 on pink paper was in futura. I am pretty sure that was the only time I strayed from twelve point courier.