Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wes Anderson’s characters

Wes Anderson’s movies are about people who are almost total nutcases.

His world is full of people who want to be loved but don’t care about others, who have lost someone even before he or she is dead, who are not sure if the person they love loves them back, who try suicide but not enough so that they’ll die….nutcases, in a way.

The characters all are a bit cartoon-like. They wear the same cloths and same hairstyle when they are 12 and when they are 30 – the jumpsuits worn by Ben Stiller and his sons’ characters in The Tenenbaums is a prime example. I think he uses it primarily to show that these people have not grown up – but then isn’t it a too literal representation? The humour in his movies is quite subtle (and the dialogues work on multitude of levels), but because of the humour, the audience may not be really emphatic about the plight of the characters. So it is not a full blown comedy, and it is not a drama, it is something in between – it is becomes quite lukewarm in the process.

Probably there is sarcasm that I can’t read and a lot irony as well. There is the portrayal of a slice of personalities that if you met otherwise if real life, you will certainly be wary of, for they will stand out in a crowd and their presence around you will make you quite uncomfortable. His movies are not about regular folks, they are about folks who want to be regular, want a regular, normal (in their own definition) life.

The last movie I watched was Rushmore. It is a good movie – acting is fine, the story isn’t too bad (a little dragging at times); the same thing could be said about The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life aquatic….but I fail to really care for the characters – they are all hurt in some way, their family is broken (most of the times), they fall for women whom they can’t have etc….but still, by the end of the movie, I really don’t care which way the fate swings for them.

The movie that stands out is Bottle Rocket. First few minutes into the movie and I was totally engrossed into the lives of the two lead characters, played by the Wilson brothers (Owen Wilson’s debut role). This is the most moving film Anderson has ever made. The movie revolves around two friends who are small time thieves with big dreams; one of them just out of a rehab for breakdown, played by Luke Wilson. He is the more sensitive one, and you wonder why did he have to go the rehab in the first place.

You do wonder Dignan, played by Owen Wilson, needs some help! He is spot on as the bumbling, hyper active type who has big dreams…no matter if they involve robbing book stores and cold storage units! He plays a similar character in The Royal Tenenbaums, who ultimately needs some psychiatric help to get over his troubles. His character reminds me of some kids in my school. These were the boys that got into trouble with teachers all the time. They were friends with some kids who were way older and weirder. These were the kids who bunked school mid-day to go play or did it just for the heck of it. When you talked with them, they were a little less coherent in their thoughts but not dumb. They were the unpredictables.

Owen Wilson plays it to perfection. He is almost adorable in that role.

The more subdued part of the group is Luke Wilson’s character –his character symbolizes the directionlessness in life, and the effort to find that missing direction; he falls in love with a room service girl at a motel, and that is when he realizes he has found something to hold on to.

Unlike the other Anderson movies, I cared for what happens to these guys in the end, partly because unlike his other movies, the cast is smaller. There isn’t an ensemble of characters like in the Tenenbaums or Life Aquatic. Which also means the story is more focused compared to other movie, and you are not made to watch through a microscope the slide show of clashing personalities in great numbers.

The quest for spirituality in The Darjeeling Ltd was too lame. Being an Indian, I really don’t get that impressed when someone from outside tries to make it a theme in his movie. But it worked well in the US. It did move people (I guess). I failed to understand why someone would come to India, when they need to look within. There is a lot of symbolism in this movie, although not everyone is going to get it. I did not. I was left with this half empty, half full feeling after watched the move. While I enjoyed the train journey with the three brothers across my country, it failed to move me.

His movies are interesting, and he has his own unique style (with all those slow-motions – almost Bollywoodisque!). They put me in a kind of confused mode – I liked The Royal Tenenbaums, but I’m not sure if I give a damn about any of them? Why so?

When a movie does make you think – ‘why are you not thinking about the fate of the characters?’ ,does it mean that the movie is working??