Review: A Weekend with Wes Anderson


Self-proclaimed “Andersonians” filed into The Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton on Saturday for the second installment of ‘A Weekend With Wes Anderson,’ a film festival that stretched over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The audience laughed, sighed and shared their emotions with one another throughout the screenings of "Moonrise Kingdom," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." If they weren’t predicting the upcoming lines, you’d think the guests were seeing these films for the first time.

Audience member and recent UMass grad Divya Kurti grew up watching Anderson’s films, her favorite being "Darjeeling Limited." Kurti said that she appreciates the recurring role of Indian characters, with whom she identifies. This was an interesting statement, because in many ways these films exclusively focus on the lives of straight, white individuals as they navigate their way through unconventional problems, albeit with a P.O.C. side-kick. It’s true that Anderson’s movies feature a token Indian character, but are they integral contributors to the plot, or exotic background fillers meant to exaggerate the film’s “quirkiness?”

Even still, Anderson is one of the few filmmakers to represent ethnic minorities on the big screen at all. At least the Indian characters were played by Indian actors with accurate Indian accents (in their relatively few lines).

One truly commendable aspect of Wes Anderson’s work is the music. "The Royal Tenenbaums" features a messy and '70s inspired soundtrack that helps portray the loving, though sometimes chaotic, relationships between the characters without resorting to painfully sappy movie lines. Similarly, in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," a recurring cover of Life on Mars not only fosters a certain fondness for the characters, but also reinforces the film’s overall sense of nostalgia.

Another aspect is Anderson’s attention to detail, from the camera work of "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" to the cigarettes smoked by Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow), which, as one audience member recalled, were only sold in Ireland and hadn’t been made since the 70s. Anderson insisted on using this brand to compliment the character’s strange personality.

Packed with dark humor, dysfunctional families and plenty of moral take-aways, there’s much more to say about Wes Anderson’s imperfect films (just ask the so-called “Andersonians.”) Overall, this film festival has turned a skeptic into a fan.