With just three movies behind him and a fourth – “The Life Aquatic” – that is due in theaters soon, Wes Anderson has quickly become one of the most popular contemporary directors. He is loved for his quirkiness and dark humor and admired for his uncanny visuals and creative ability behind the camera. Anderson released his first film, “Bottle Rocket,” in 1996 to mixed, but overall favorable reviews. “Bottle Rocket” tells the story of two friends who attempt to become modern-day robbers.
The film marks not only the start of Anderson’s career, but also the beginning for brothers Luke and Owen Wilson. The Wilsons, who have collaborated with Anderson in some way on all of his projects, comprise one of the biggest sibling acting duos working today.
Anderson’s sophomore effort came in 1998, with the release of “Rushmore.” The film was met with an extremely positive critical response. Jason Schwartzman plays a young oddball who refuses to leave his prep school, falls in love with a first grade teacher and befriends a local tycoon, played by Bill Murray.
The film is quirky and its humor is subtle, both trademarks of its director. In just his second film, Anderson had earned the respect of film critics and moviegoers and had established a valid and recognizable style.
Anderson released “The Royal Tenenbaums” in 2001, and if there was any remaining doubt about his talent as a filmmaker, it quickly vanished. The cast included such stars as Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Danny Glover.
With the experienced and talented cast, along with Anderson’s stylistic direction, the dark comedy about the wacky Tenenbaum family was able to come alive.
“The Life Aquatic,” scheduled for wide release on Dec. 25 (but will play at The Museum of Modern Art in mid-December), will star Anderson favorites Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston and Owen Wilson as well as Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe.
The premise, as we have come to expect from Anderson, is as wacky as ever – a famous oceanographer, Steve Zissou, sets out to find the shark that killed his partner during the documentary filming of their latest expedition.
Anderson has hooked an almost cult-like following. It seems that fans of one of his films are at the very least familiar with his other two, most having seen all three.
And, as with other cult films, Anderson’s movies have for the most part been ignored by the Academy Awards.
Although Bill Murray won the Independent Spirit Award, was named Best Supporting Actor by the National Society of Film Critics and was nominated at the Golden Globes for his performance in “Rushmore,” he did not receive a nomination for the Academy Award.
While Anderson and Owen Wilson received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for “The Royal Tenenbaums,” it is safe to say that the film was otherwise ignored by the Academy.
So what can we expect from “The Life Aquatic?” It will no doubt contain all of the quirkiness that has come to define a Wes Anderson film.
The premise is such a comedic stretch that it could possibly alienate viewers. However, I predict that it will instead reel them in, just as Anderson’s other films have done.
We can expect quality performances from the familiar cast. In fact, I have a feeling that Anderson newcomers Blanchett and Dafoe will flourish under his direction.
With its late release, “The Life Aquatic” has its timing down for award consideration, but will Anderson, one of the true auteurs of the young contemporary directors, be snubbed yet again by the Academy Awards? We can only wait and see.
For Anderson fans, the film represents more than just a shot at commercial success. Each of Anderson’s films has been better than the last, and many look forward to more of the lively visuals, dark, subtle humor and offbeat style that Anderson has mastered.
With each film he releases, Anderson proves to be more and more in command of his craft and it will be fun and fascinating to see what he does with “The Life Aquatic.”