Today, Slate looks at The Brothers Bloom and “the problem of Wes Anderson’s pervasive influence.” Problem? Hrmm…
Rian Johnson’s caper comedy The Brothers Bloom begins its nationwide rollout already burdened with a reputation as an imitation of an American original. If Johnson’s terrific debut, Brick, crackled with the borrowed brio of the Coen brothers, early notices for The Brothers Bloom have identified a new muse: Wes Anderson. It’s an assessment that the preview and opening sequence hardly dispel.
But The Brothers Bloom is only the latest addition to a burgeoning subgenre. Over the last few years, Anderson’s movies have become touchstones for indie culture. In the 1990s, it seemed every NYU graduate and Sundance contender was making his own Tarantino knockoff. These days, the Tarantino imitators have been replaced by the Wes wannabes. A popular strain in recent American indie cinema has been the Andersonian quirkfest, a tendency that runs through movies like Juno, Napoleon Dynamite, Son of Rambow, Charlie Bartlett, and Garden State, among others.
Above all, the essay rehashes an old argument, about the alleged “decline” of Wes Anderson:
If Anderson’s ascent was swift, so has been the backlash. His last two movies, The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited, were received coolly by critics. Some of that has to do with the ubiquity of the Anderson aesthetic, an overexposure that has had the effect of watering down the originator’s own vision. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Aquatic and Darjeeling are rediscovered as unfairly maligned classics a decade or two from now, removed from the fickle context.) But part of it has to do with the elements of his style that Anderson has chosen to cultivate. The Royal Tenenbaums inaugurated the current Anderson period, defined by whimsical bricolage and diorama-style mise-en-scène. His recent movies give off the sense of an artist receding ever deeper into a dollhouse of his own making-or, worse, becoming his own imitator, repeating moves that we have become all too familiar with.
These criticisms are not new. I end with a quote from our interview with author Derek Hill from September of last year:
So if we castigate Anderson for these cinematic sins then we have to scold Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford and David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick and Yasujir? Ozu and Luis Buñuel and on and on. I think the criticism is unfair and displays a lack of awareness about how some directors choose to work. If you don’t like Anderson’s style, so be it. It’s the way he’s chosen to tell stories and I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing that he may have a limited thematic or stylistic palette. There’s nothing wrong with that. Look at the films of Lynch in regards to style. They’re distinctive yet rather limited; same with his themes. Even Kubrick, who tried his hand with various genres and style, was repeatedly working his way through ideas concerning control systems and the chance that what we label individuality wasn’t even possible within these constraining social and biological systems. Big, bold themes… but “limited” as well. Anderson is no different.