When Wes Anderson’s fifth film, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, came out in 2007, it was called a “precious…flawed, but nonetheless beautiful handmade object as apt to win affection as to provoke annoyance” (The New York Times). Critic A.O. Scott was talking about Anderson’s meticulously orchestrated compositions, a trademark that has steadily grown in complexity over the span of his career, just compare any shot of the train in India to the motel scenes in BOTTLE ROCKET. Every color, every piece of fabric, every accessory is exactly in its place. This obsessive attention to detail is what led many critics, like Scott, to doubt whether Anderson had a real story to tell, or whether the story was too weighed down by the trappings of an overactive art department. “Humanism lies either beyond his grasp or outside the range of his interests.”
Finally, a film that lives up to the hype. Not only is FANTASTIC MR. FOX thrilling to simply look at, I think even hard-core Roald Dahl fans will appreciate the liberties Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach (SQUID AND THE WHALE, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING) took with the story. While it’s not clear what they invented and what they took from Dahl’s original notes, the events in the book occupy the middle of the film with added backstory in the beginning and a more involved and complete ending.
How many ways can men bond? They can bond over the effort of getting their friend laid (40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN), or they can alternatively support and ridicule their friend as he struggles to do the right thing (KNOCKED UP), or they can fetch them diet cokes, cup their balls, and sit at their bedside while they fall asleep as in FUNNY PEOPLE. It’s been out for awhile now and I wasn’t compelled to see it until it was 90 degrees out yesterday and I sought the respite only an air-conditioned movie theater can provide, but I’m kind of glad I did. It stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, an Adam Sandler-like comedian: middle-aged, ex-stand up comic earning an ample income making pandering comedies, and Seth Rogen as Ira, a struggling comic hired to be Simmons’ assistant. The pair develop that love/hate bro-relationship Apatow does so well, at one moment patting each other on the back and the next making fun of each other’s penis size.