Wes Anderson is a director known for his very identifiable, very quirky style. His films feature a variety of similarities, from thematic motifs, to recurring actor ensembles, to indescribably odd color palettes. Wes Anderson is an indie film fanatic’s dream. He has developed a mainstream following while still retaining a delightfully bizarre tone throughout his works.
Anderson was born and raised in Houston, then went on to attend The University of Texas at Austin. It was here that he met longtime friend and collaborator Owen Wilson, who has co-written and starred in several of Anderson’s films.
Anderson and Wilson’s first foray into film was a short film titled “Bottle Rocket.” After garnering praise at a film festival and attracting investors, the duo remade their short as a feature length film with a proper budget.
Following “Bottle Rocket,” Anderson went on to create “Rushmore,” a somewhat autobiographical movie about a teenager who struggles with academics but loves to create elaborate school plays. It was this film that introduced Anderson to Bill Murray, a talented actor who has since made appearances in almost every one of Anderson’s films. By this point, Murray is as identifying for an Anderson film as the style itself. “Rushmore” once again garnered the wholehearted support of critics but failed to achieve mainstream success.
Anderson’s next film, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” was once again co-written with Wilson. The movie featured an all-star cast, including Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover and Ben Stiller in addition to Owen Wilson, his brother Luke, and of course Bill Murray. It was met with sweeping box office success as well as critical praise, and marked Anderson’s shift from a talented but niche director into a delightfully odd mainstream filmmaker.
Immediately following “Tenenbaums,” Anderson launched into his fourth project, a film titled “The Life aquatic with Steve Zissou.” In many ways his strangest film yet, “The Life Aquatic” was Anderson’s first film to receive anything other than total support rom critics. As someone who’s seen the film I can tell you it’s not a bad movie, just a little less good, less focused than his other works.
Following “Aquatic” came another film about which critics were undecided. “The Darjeeling Limited” told the story of a group of brothers who reconnect on a long train ride through India. This film strays from Anderson’s typical ensemble cast approach and is probably the director’s worst received film.
Following the two worst received films of his career, Anderson went on to create “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and animated film with another ensemble voice cast including his regular collaborators as well as George Clooney and Meryl Streep. “Fox” was a cinematic telling of author Roald Dahl’s children’s book by of the same name. Like his earlier works, this film was met with critical success as well as high box office earnings.
After “Fox,” Anderson released what I consider to be one of his best films, “Moonrise Kingdom,” in 2012. The culmination of excellent cast, touching story and quirky style, “Kingdom” is Anderson at his best. If you only see one Wes Anderson movie after reading this article, make it “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Shortly thereafter, Anderson released “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which received nine Oscar nominations. By this point in time, the director had hit his stride. In 2018, he released another animated film, this one done entirely in claymation style. This latest film, “Isle of Dogs,” featured another ensemble cast including Edward Norton in addition to regulars. It faced some controversy over accused whitewashing, but remains a good and delightful movie nonetheless.
Wes Anderson is surely a strange director who makes strange films. But he has proven his ability as a filmmaker, and continues to produce high quality movies. He is certainly earns his place amongst my favorite directors.