In Defense of the Wes Anderson Formula

Wes Anderson has been paid to make the same movie over and over again for the past decade. His new movie, The Darjeeling Limited, is no exception. Perturbed by critics who view this similarity as a flaw, Caitlin Boersma offers a defense of the Anderson motif, which emphasizes beauty over reality.

I’ve read a couple of reviews of the new Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited, and the gist of all of them was “more of the same from Anderson.” The reviewers didn’t express dissatisfaction, more a quiet sigh of annoyance, as though they wished Anderson would do something different.

Why would you want Wes Anderson to do anything differently – ever? He has created his very own genre of meticulously detailed costumes and sets, one-dimensional characters who blatantly state their feelings, and a world where these two elements coexist effortlessly.

I wish my world were as beautiful and effortless as a Wes Anderson movie. For example, instead of being honked at and almost run over while riding my bicycle today, I would have been cruising along in slow motion with a cigarette and alcoholic beverage in my hand while the Velvet Underground and Nico’s “Femme Fatale” played in the background.

Granted, if Wes Anderson directed my life, I would be a high school drop-out and have a substance abuse problem, but it would look really glamorous. And if Wes Anderson has taught me anything, it’s always “Fashion Before Function.”

I agree that The Darjeeling Limited is similar to Anderson’s other films, but I would argue that his recent work is more risque. As ever, Darjeeling’s story is set in an utterly fantastical world, but, once you accept that, Anderson deals with sex and death in a candid manner rather than merely alluding to both issues as in his earlier films.

Anderson’s characters are still detached from sex and death, but in a different way. In previous Anderson films it seemed like the sex and death scenes were shown only in part. The Darjeeling Limited is more upfront with these scenes, but they still feel emotionally distant because the events in question occur between characters who have only just met.

It’s always difficult to figure out the symbolism in an Anderson movie, but I have one further observation. The Darjeeling Limited involves three brothers traveling together and trying to reconnect, and each brother’s face is almost always covered. Jason Schwartzman has a large mustache, Owen Wilson’s face is covered in bandages, and Adrien Brody is constantly wearing his father’s sunglasses. Each character has his own hang-ups involving family and relationships, so perhaps this is a physical projection of their emotional state. Or perhaps Wes Anderson simply had too much fun with his costume department.

All in all, it really doesn’t matter if Wes Anderson did anything differently in The Darjeeling Limited. If you are a fan of his other movies, go see this one. If not, you won’t like his new movie either. The point is this: if Wes Anderson were God we would all be attractive, and cancer and real jobs would not exist. That sounds pretty good to me.

Caitlin Boersma is studying political science and English, but spends most of her time analyzing pop culture. Her premise for a new reality TV show, Killing Andy Milonakis, has yet to be picked up by VH1. She is notorious for spending a week’s wages on a ticket to see Morrissey live.