The 50th New York Film Festival is bookmarked by two films in which disasters lead to personal awakenings. The opening movie on September 28 is Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI, a 3D adventure tale about an Indian boy’s antics with various wildlife after a shipwreck sets them adrift on the ocean. The closing night attraction is Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT, about a pilot, played by Denzel Washington, who saves a plane — if not necessarily his life — from crashing.
Is there anything more pathetic than a middle-aged man who lists among his most winning attributes a record deal his college band almost had, the ability to make a killer mix CD and wearying psuedo-wit and cynicism about the modern world? A cynicism so far-reatching, I might add, that almost nothing escapes its scope, not even the ailing family dog and definitely nothing post-1979 which includes all music, all technologies and all people who came into being after this year. The aforementioned ‘almost nothing’ means GREENBERG, of course, the only person to escape his critical eye.
THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is Wes Anderson’s best movie since BOTTLE ROCKET. (Read Perrin Drumm’s previous coverage of this film.) And boy is that fox foxy. Scoring George Clooney and Meryl Streep was truly a coup, as their interactions subtly and richly mine the dynamics of marriage, life expectations, and negotiating “bad” behavior in a relationship.
How did Wes arrive at this place? My response to most of his films has been that they certainly are fun to look at, but waaaaaaay less satisfying story-wise, a cotton-candy sugary disappearance from the consciousness almost instantly after viewing. (My husband always says, “He should have been a graphic designer.” Ouch.) The magic bullet here, the big difference, seems to be Noah Baumbach, co-writer, who is clearly bringing additional nuance to the table.
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.