Fox Searchlight, a division of 20th Century Fox that focuses on “Indie” films, had a good 2007. Three of the eleven films they produced last year have been nominated for Oscars: Juno, Once, and The Savages. Four of the Oscar nominations went to Juno (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Screenplay). Fox Searchlight also produced The Darjeeling Limited, which has no Oscar nominations. I thought it would interesting to take moment and take a closer look at TDL and Juno in particular.
Many reviewers picked up similarities between Juno’s Director Jason Reitman’s style and Anderson’s. Some saw it as Reitman “channeling Bottlerocket/Rushmore era Anderson” or as employing Anderson’s “subtly Sardonic eye on American life”.
Others have seen Anderson’s influence on Reitman as a hindrance to overcome, most notably in the San Francisco Weekly. A December 18th 2007 review states that Juno only gets good “once you get past the early-going rough patches that are more Wes Anderson than even Wes Anderson could imagine. With the Kinks’ “Well-Respected Man” blaring on the soundtrack in the first 15 minutes, you’re likely to get the indie-film shakes.” TDL was criticized perhaps most heavily for Anderson’s “inability” to overcome his style.
The IFC recently praised five directors for “shifting gears” on their style, including P.T. Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and David Fincher (Zodiac), but chastised W. Anderson’s “tilling the same ground over and over again.”
Whatever your opinion on Anderson’s style or Reitman’s borrowing (or overcoming) or Juno’s merits, Juno has not only won the four nominations it also has made a hefty load of cash. TDL had a reported production budget of about US$20million. As of now it it’s made about US$22million (split almost evenly between the Domestic and Foreign markets). This is good news for Anderson and company. They’ve eked out a profit in the theaters and hopefully can make some good money in the DVD sales to come. But if we compare this to Juno, with a reported production budget of US$2.5million and a current box office tally of a whopping US$100million (with much more to come), one has to wonder why didn’t the TDL gross more at the box office. Again, the San Francisco Weekly chimes in with an explanation: “But after a little while, the movie [Juno] calms down and finds its center — no, its heart, which already sets it apart from the cutesy-quirky realm of Anderson, for whom tics and affectations have replaced deliberation and emotion.” Ironically TDL reviews actually often singled out the presence of emotion (notably “melancholy”), but apparently this wasn’t “deliberate” enough for theater going audiences. Let’s hope DVD sales prove them wrong and continue to fund Wes and his amazing team!