I originally saw this after it had just been released in cinemas, over ten years ago and I admit that a lot of the absurdist humor went completely over my head at the time. I went expecting a traditional, easy to laugh comedy with a ton of goofy jokes, and of course Wes Anderson’s movies are anything but that. I do remember liking the movie, kinda, but other than that it didn’t leave much of an impression. It’s painfully obvious now that I was far too immature to appreciate the complexity of the themes in the movie and the tone of Wes Anderson’s unique sense of humor. It’s a rejuvenating experience to rediscover a movie that you had once dismissed when you were younger and now suddenly get it on a new level. This could very well become my favorite Wes Anderson movie now, I’d have to rewatch Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom to be certain.
The most charming aspect of the movie is most likely the way the story is told. True to Anderson’s style, the opening sequence alone is so different and stylistic, yet simple that it is enough to get you immediately immersed into the story. The movie starts with a book sharing the same title as the movie being checked out of a library, and the idea turns is that the movie is in fact the book being read, narrated by Alec Baldwin’s disembodied voice. The movie even incorporates chapter break to transition the story forward. All this really help to make the movie stand out and feel special to you. The characters are also very unique and typical of Anderson, quirky to a point, but not caricatures, and it is their disharmony when they get together and interact that makes the movie so enticing. I especially liked the subtle humor with the father/daughter relationship between Royal and Margot. Royal always takes time to mention how Margot is adopted and not related to him by blood, and never compliments her accomplishments and instead just offers brutally honest opinions to her (like during her birthday party he completely ridicules her play) and is a bit oblivious to the fact that he has psychologically belittled and alienated her from him through her childhood, to a point of where she only has detached resentment towards him as an adult now. And it wonderfully climaxes when the two of them have their brief tête-à-tête, both of them have their own realization why the other acts as they do. And that really is the power of the film, the theme dysfunctional family and how they are able to overcome their disagreements and come together as a unit when it really matters.