You know a movie's bad when, after watching it, you re-watch the director's previous films that you loved just to see if you were wrong all along about them. That's what I did this weekend, with Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and the Royal Tenenbaums. Thankfully, those movies are still great, and I'm still left scratching my head about what the hell went wrong with Wes Anderson. Apparently, I'm the only one...this movie's making a ton of money (for this type of film) and is one of his best reviewed films. Everyone's calling it one of his best films, some assholes are even saying it's his best film since the Royal Tenenbaums. To that I say both "no" and "are you fucking shitting me?" This movie is, by far, the worst movie Wes Anderson has ever made. Worse than his last live-action stinker, the Darjeeling Limited.
First of all, none of these characters are memorable or even sympathetic, with the lone exception being the Bruce Willis character. The lead, a little asshole of a boy who basically ruins everyone's life by running away from Margot Tenenbaum-lite, is a total shit who's unlikable from start to finish. And don't give me that crap about Max Fischer and Royal Tenenbaum being assholes. Yes, they were undeniably assholes. You know what else? They paid the price for their hubris. Both ended up working shit jobs and being brought low before they can redeem themselves. There was ZERO redemption in this movie, just a couple of irritating, frowny hipster tweens expecting the world to bend to their will because no one understands them and they're in love. To quote Patrick Swayze in Ghost, what a crock of shit.
Anderson also follows his favorite theme of remarkably gifted children, but offers no real background for it, nor any reason why it matters. Fischer was gifted at everything, but it was compensation for being a barber's son, plus his grades were shit. The Tenenbaum children were talented as compensation for having a shit father with no tact. Margot-lite in Moonrise is....a reader. She's also "troubled." She also hates her parents, her mom especially. Asshole hipster boy is an orphan, which is the cheapest way to build sympathy for a protagonist. Oh, he's also a great painter and great at "roughing it." How does that painting add to his character? It doesn't. It was just fucking thrown in there because Wes Anderson likes gifted children.
There's also a scene that's so jarringly out of place, it's like Wes hired Todd Solondz as a guest director. It's the scene where asshole hipster boy and Margot-lite are making out, with tongues touched and everything, and asshole hipster boy gets a handful of tit. Now, I know that directors typically put themselves in their movies, but as soon as I saw this scene, it because blindingly obvious that it's function is as a Wes Anderson/Roman Coppola masturbation fantasy. Misunderstood but talented hip boy meets a troubled "sexy" girl who's into obscure 60s French pop music (I love Francoise Hardy, but don't you dare throw that reference in my face and use "it's from my aunt who lives in France!" as your excuse to name-drop) and has a super-cool secret dance party on the beach? How is this not the masturbation fantasy of two hipster douchebag writers?
The biggest crime of this movie, however, isn't just that it fails as a romance. It's that it's not funny. I'm probably the last person alive who got into Wes Anderson specifically because his movies are funny as fuck, and not because they look pretty. When I see his movies, I WANT TO LAUGH. There were as many laughs in this piece of shit as there are in The Sorrow and the Pity. There were things that I know were supposed to be funny, like the Margot-lite paper-mache head, and Edward Norton being all wacky, and the oh-so-hilarious gigantic tree house, but it all fell flat. The only thing that made me crack a smile was when asshole hipster boy's "father" is called about him running away, and the "father" says that he's not going to take him back. That kind of dark humor briefly brings you back to the glory days of his early films, but then it immediately goes back into the serious business of "love conquers all."
And don't give me that shit about "oh, you just don't like romances." BULLSHIT. I like well-made movies that pay off and earn it at the end. Amelie is one of my top 10 favorite films, as is Casablanca. I'm one of the few guys out there who liked Titanic. Also, fuck it, I liked My Best Friend's Wedding, even though my friends hear me bring that up as an example almost as much as I use Sleepers when playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
This movie sucks cock, and makes me yearn for the days when Wes had Owen Wilson as his collaborator. Bring that shit back, Wes. PLEASE.
Fuck it, here's my ranking of Wes Anderson films, because why the hell not?
1) Fantastic Mr. Fox
2) The Royal Tenenbaums
4) Bottle Rocket
5) The Life Aquatic
6) The Darjeeling Limited
7) Moonrise Kingdom