Anderson’s first feature film exudes many of the wonderful and playful tropes that would later characterise his bigger-budget work, from the sense of absurdity and deadpan comic intensity to cinematographer Robert Yeoman’s radiant palette. Two wacky best friends, Dignan (Owen Wilson, his debut role) and Anthony (Luke Wilson), hatch a 75-year plan and embark on a hare-brained crime spree that revolves around the mysterious Mr Henry (a magnificently manic James Caan). A low-budget gem full of low-key hilarity.
Wes Anderson’s wacky, off-the-wall humour hits the spot in this wickedly funny high-school comedy. Max Fischer (Schwartzman) is an audaciously clever prep school kid, editor of the school newspaper, president of most societies, and leader of the drama club. He’s also infatuated with his beautiful teacher, Miss Cross. In a bid to win her affections he not only gets himself expelled, but also makes an enemy of his best friend.
Royal Tenenbaum (Hackman) is the errant patriarch of the Tenenbaum clan, who after a number of years without contact tries to worm his way back into the family’s affections when his layabout lifestyle becomes no longer possible. His children, however, are reluctant to welcome him open armed with all of them facing problems of their own. Oldest son Chas (Stiller), who made his name as an entrepreneurial wiz-kid from an early age, is now a widower with two sons, paranoid about the safety of his family following the accident which killed his wife. Adopted daughter Margot (Paltrow), a precocious child playwright, who hasn’t written anything for years, drifts through a series of promiscuous encounters despite being married to psychologist Raleigh St. Clair (Murray). Younger son Richie (Wilson), a former tennis champ, aimlessly travels the high seas following a public breakdown brought about by his impossible love for Margot. Episodically unfolding like chapters in a book, The Royal Tenenbaums is guided by the wry narration of Alec Baldwin as the film moves between short, sharp and hugely enjoyable comic vignettes.
With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner Esteban (Seymour Cassel), acclaimed oceanographer Steve Zissou (Murray) rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife (Anjelica Huston), a tenacious journalist (Blanchett) and a spunky young pilot who may or may not be his estranged son (Wilson). Anderson’s fourth feature is an absolute delight from beginning to end, and confirmed the young director as one of contemporary American cinema’s brightest voices. Endlessly inventive (the astonishing animation sequences come courtesy of Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas) and with an attention to detail second to none (including vintage Adidas trainers for the whole crew), the visionary director also, as is his custom, pulled together an exceptional cast, and even threw in Portuguese music by David Bowie.
In The Darjeeling Limited, three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train journey across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with one another, hoping to become the close-knit kin they once were. Their ‘spiritual quest’, however, veers rapidly off course (due to events involving over-the-counter painkillers, Indian cough syrup and pepper spray), and they eventually find themselves stranded alone in the middle of the desert with eleven suitcases, a printer and a laminating machine. At this moment, a new, unplanned journey suddenly begins. Anderson regulars Wilson and Schwartzman are joined by Brody (The Pianist) in this distinctive and meticulously executed comedy about adventure and friendship.
Fantastic Mr Fox is visionary director Anderson’s first animated film, in which he uses handmade stop-motion animation to tell Roald Dahl’s bestselling children’s story. Mr and Mrs Fox (Clooney and Streep) live an idyllic life with their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). But after 12 years, the bucolic existence proves too much for Mr Fox’s wild animal instincts. He slips back into his old ways as a sneaky chicken thief and in doing so, endangers not only his beloved family, but the whole animal community. Trapped underground and running out of food, the animals band together to fight against the evil farmers who are determined to capture the audacious Mr Fox at any cost.
Set in the 1960s, Moonrise Kingdom follows 12-year-olds Sam and Suzy (Gilman and Hayward), who flee their cosy New England coastal town in an impulsive gesture of pre-teen romance. Suzy’s panic-stricken mother (McDormand) and seemingly unflustered father (Murray) toothcomb the region for their absent offspring with help from Sam’s Scout leader (Ed Norton) and the local sheriff (Willis). Meanwhile, a ferocious storm is gathering offshore and threatening to turn this quaint island community inside out.
Anderson’s latest film has all the luminosity of Moonrise Kingdom and frenetic wit of The Royal Tenenbaums – and then some. Set in the interwar years, the film centres on the eponymous hotel, its savvy concierge Gustave (Fiennes) and his new lobby boy Zero Moustafa (newcomer Tony Revolori), who progresses from naive apprentice to Gustave’s trusted accomplice. The guile of both is tested when one of Gustave’s most favoured guests (a heavily camouflaged Tilda Swinton) bequeaths him a priceless painting, thereby arousing the suspicions of Edward Norton’s detective Henckels. Their ensuing adventures propel the story along at a heady pace and involve numerous roguish characters, many played by Anderson regulars including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. Glorious fun.