The Grand Budapest Hotel
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PICS: The Hits and Misses of Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel checks into select theaters this Friday, his eighth feature-length film amid a myriad collection of commercials and shorts, and we're breaking down the hits and misses of his unique career trajectory.
Bottle Rocket - Hit
Wes Anderson's breakthrough 1996 comedy of errors – which introduced the world to Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the film) – was shepherded by none other than Oscar winner James L. Brooks, who was dazzled by Anderson's 13-minute short at Sundance and gave him carte blanche to make a feature-length version. The story of aimless Texas twentysomethings looking to pull off a series of escalating heists to pass the time failed miserably at the box office, but the filmmaking community stood up and took notice, paving the way for Anderson's much more successful sophomore effort, Rushmore.
Rushmore - Hit
While Bottle Rocket may have put Wes Anderson on the map, 1998's Rushmore thrust the Texas filmmaker into the top echelon of enviable indie filmmakers with this comedic love triangle featuring the elusive Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Olivia Williams. Schwartzman's career peaked early with his portrayal of Max Fischer, an eccentric high school student who vies for the affections of beautiful older teacher Williams against Murray's deadpan, rich industrialist Herman Blume. Driven by a fantastic, British Invasion soundtrack (in between the whimsical stylings of former Devo musician Mark Mothersbaugh) and precocious dialogue, Rushmore created the template for many a Wes Anderson movie to come.
The Royal Tenenbaums - Hit
Anderson found his stride with this quirky 2001 film, co-written by Owen Wilson, about an eccentric New York clan, and numerous indie filmmakers for the next several years attempted to ape his style. With a humorous-yet-melancholy vibe, a retro soundtrack (along with more Mothersbaugh music) and careful attention to colorful palette and detail, Anderson tracks the storylines of three gifted siblings (Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller) as they grapple with their dysfunctional family led by patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman). Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson also star.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Miss
An attempt to capitalize on the success and scope of The Royal Tenenbaums led to this sprawling and disjointed 2004 effort featuring Bill Murray as the title character, an eccentric Jacques Cousteau-type oceanographer who commands a rag-tag crew, makes documentaries and aims to get revenge on the "Jaguar Shark" that killed his partner. Co-written with Noah Baumbach, The Life Aquatic boasts some interesting devices -- such as a balladeer in the form of Seu Jorge performing acoustic versions of David Bowie songs in Portugese, and stop-motion-animated fish (the Jaguar Shark, Crayon Ponyfish and Sugar Crabs) designed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) – but ultimately comes across as overly self-conscious and rambling.
Hotel Chevalier - Miss
This short film which opened before The Darjeeling Limited is an arguably lifeless mood piece that boasts one incredible bonus: the first-ever big-screen nude scene of Natalie Portman. Designed to be a prologue involving Jason Schwartzman's Darjeeling character's love and heartbreak in a Paris hotel room, while atmospheric, it ultimately reveals itself to be snoozeworthy and overly pretentious for such a short film.
The Darjeeling Limited - Miss
20th Century Fox
This 2007 road movie (co-written by Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman) gets points for a creative location and exotic cultural infusion, but the misadventures of three alienated brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Schwartzman) who reunite for a soul-searching rail adventure through India ultimately falls flat. "I want us to be completely open and say yes to everything, even if it's shocking and painful," says Owen's character, who spends a good deal of the film in bandages. While damaged characters – physically and emotionally – can make for compelling drama, the patented Anderson quirk seemed to be a mismatch for this colorful oddity, resulting in the aforementioned "painful."
Fantastic Mr. Fox - Hit
20th Century Fox
Anderson takes the beloved Roald Dahl children's tale and makes it his own in this 2009 gem with the help of the vocal talents of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Jason Schwartzman and co-writer Noah Baumbach. Using charming, old-school stop-motion animation, Anderson tells the tale of Mr. Fox, who lives an idyllic home life with Mrs. Fox, their son Ash and their visiting nephew Kristopherson. But old ways die hard, and soon the audacious Mr. Fox is chomping at the bit to raid the farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, setting off a chain of events that threatens not only Mr. Fox, but the whole animal community. The combination of children's style animation with understated adult themes makes for an especially whimsical endeavor and refreshing rebound from Anderson's previous few projects.
Moonrise Kingdom - Hit
Back on track after the creatively invigorating Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson returns to live-action with a top-notch cast that includes Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban and Tilda Swinton alongside regular repertory members Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, the story (co-written with Roman Coppola) follows a pair of 12-year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who fall in love and run away together into the wilderness. The concerned, peaceful island community must rally together and track them down as a violent storm brews off-shore. The theme of the film is reminiscent of Rushmore in its treatment of young adults precariously plunging into adult territory while the grown-ups around them bumble.
Casello Cavalcanti - Hit
This inspired seven-minute short was made as part of a collaboration with Prada and features Wes Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman as an American racecar driver in 1955 Italy who is decidedly detoured with unexpected benefits. The bite-sized morsel is classic Anderson, filled with colorful period production design and equally colorful character flourishes, a definite improvement in comparison to the drab, lethargic Hotel Chevalier.
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Hit
The arrival of a new Wes Anderson movie is like the opening of a quirky new play at the local high school featuring performances by all of your favorite friends. Anderson's mainstay company players are all here -- Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Willem Dafoe -- joined by other big stars lining up to be a part of the fun (including Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Harvey Keitel, Léa Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson and Ralph Fiennes). Set in the title residence high up in the hills of the Swiss Alps, the flashback tale follows the relationship between a lobby boy (newcomer Tony Revolori) and his mentor, the hotel's legendary concierge (Fiennes) Mssr. Gustave. Suffice it to say, there's adventure, intrigue, love and loss that enters a little darker territory and employs a little more structural complexity than usual for an Anderson tale, albeit with the same clever dialogue and meticulous attention to detail that we've come to expect from an Anderson production.