I like Bottle Rocket but it’s clearly a first movie made with no budget. You can see the potential in both direction and writing (Anderson alongside his oft-partner Owen Wilson) but it’s simply not as good. Characters aren’t as fully developed and the imagery contained within each frame is not as precise as it later becomes. It’s a learning movie – a fantastic first film but not in the same league as his next 3 films.
Anyways, I always liked Rushmore the best with Life Aquatic in second and The Royal Tenenbaums least of the three. But the more I see it, I like it more and more. I’m starting to feel that my preference for one or another is diminishing and that I love all 3 equally. There’s a certain quality to the dialogue and emotional mood created in these films, something that I’ve always descried as an almost absurd honestness. The characters are so earnest that they aren’t caricatures but go beyond that to become incredibly complex. Lines like,
Bert Fischer: You’re like one of those clipper ship captains. You’re married to the sea.
Max Fischer: Yes, that’s true.
Max Fischer: But I’ve been out to sea for a long time.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Eleanor Zissou: Is that a new merit badge?
Alistair Hennessey: Oh, yeah, as a matter of fact it is. I just became a Knight in Portugal, the Presidente gave a special ball…
Steve Zissou: Don’t be nice to Ali, he’s my nemesis.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Chas Tenenbaum: Can we read it?
Richie Tenenbaum: No.
Chas Tenenbaum: Can you paraphrase it for us?
Richie Tenenbaum: I don’t think so.
Chas Tenenbaum: Is it dark?
Richie Tenenbaum: Of course it’s dark. It’s a suicide note.
All of them are delivered with a quiet sincerity, a serious tone that delivers a profound yearning and creates a connection with the audience. The single greatest moment of this is at the end of Life Aquatic, when Bill Murray reaches back and puts his hand on the belly of a pregnant Cate Blanchett and says, ‘I wonder if it remembers me,’ ostensibly referring to the Jaguar Shark that ate his friend Esteban. The amount of information and layers to that simple, nuanced statement from Murray’s forlorn deadpan is amazing. I’m disgusted that Bill Murray didn’t get at least an Oscar nomination for that role but alas Anderson’s tone is too decidedly ‘odd’ for some.
If you haven’t seen any of these films, I highly recommend them.