Having just left the cinema watching Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s latest directorial effort I must say I felt the same disappointment I’ve had from each of his other films. It is a film that receives good reviews and leads to an expectation of brilliance for a man who is apparently dubbed as the next ‘Scorsese’. However to me it seemed a lot like his other films full of potential before spoiling it and becoming overly self-indulgent and lacking of any real substance. In this post I will examine whether he is in-fact the ‘Genius’ people hail him as or if he’s just popular because of his unique filmmaking style.
Firstly I’ll discuss the use of comedy within his films, now the comedy is a combination of dark, deadpan and plain daft which work together creating something which though not outright hilarious will bring a smile to most people faces (mine included). Watching Moonrise Kingdom it became clear from an audiences reaction that jokes that can only be described as daft bring out the biggest laughs for instance a moment when Bill Murray lifts an entire tent, however to me these jokes appear gimmicky and pointless; there is no need or motivation it is there for a cheap laugh. I’m not saying that cheap laughs are necessarily a bad thing in fact I will happily watch a low-brow teen comedy knowing exactly what to expect; however in these films it appears often out of place and context thrown in for no real reason. In terms of dark comedy this is something that he does much better for example in the Royal Tenenbaums themes that are often portrayed delicately in cinema such as death, adoption and drug abuse are used as the core of jokes. This helps the film come together as the dark comedy enhances the sense of the dysfunctional family, however the comedy seems over-reliant and forced as they push on the boundary of what could be considered too dark yet are too afraid to cross the line in the same way other dark comedies such as Harold and Maude do.
Something which it is almost universally agreed that Wes Anderson has a knack for is production design, even those who dislike it can see the extreme originality that are created in his sets and costumes. Think of Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore and you think instantly of the round glasses and ridiculous red hat; this is a cult classic and a fancy dress favourite. There’s also the red tracksuits from Royal Tenenbaums, which are used to make that obvious visual joke and symbolise Ben Stiller’s protectiveness of his son.
In terms of sets as well everything is clearly thought out to the minute detail, making sure that not one inch of frame is left unnoticed by the viewer; this is something unrivalled by any other filmmaker, however it also sometimes comes across as a bit pretentious and over-the-top for example in Moonrise Kingdom I found the layout and décor of Bill Murray’s house to be distracting rather than awesome and it took me out of the film as I attempted to figure out what it signified.
When talking about production design and Wes Anderson it is impossible not to mention his stop-motion venture The Fantastic Mr Fox, this film contains some of the best set design I have ever experienced on par with classics such as Barry Lyndon and Moulin Rouge. Even more so when you think that each of the characters was perhaps 3 inches tall meaning some of the objects created must have been minuscule.
In conclusion I would argue that whilst I find some of Wes Anderson’s work fairly entertaining and very nice to look at, with each film he makes I seem to notice more how a lack of substance is masked by production design and ridiculous jokes. I’m not sure he has made anything with a message that will be remembered even though he has created several films that will be remembered as iconic.
I leave you with a video that should help sum up my points about the hipster side to his films: