I just read two critical essays on Wes Anderson’s new movie The Darjeeling Limited. I won’t bore you with a synopsis of the essays. You can check them out by clicking here and here.
Wes Anderson movies have been a guilty pleasure of mine. Not a lot of heads in the barrio get his humor. His movies remind me of having a privileged upper class white friend who is insightful and fun to hang around with one on one. But once you are around his friends, he acts differently and treats you as more of a token ‘ethnic” friend then a human being. Any person of color who has these friends knows what I’m talking about. I don't feel like I'm looking way too into this... something in Wes Anderson movies always made me feel a little uneasy and I think both these critics unveiled what I always felt but never could express.
I'll defend Wes Anderson just a bit, to be fair. In the movie The Royal Tenenbaums, one of the only characters with any dignity is the character Henry Sherman, played by Danny Glover. In the movie, Henry has depth. He is a good man, smart, supportive and decent. He is a friend and financial adviser to Etheline Tenebaum, the family’s matriarch, who has kept the family together throughout the years despite the family's many pitfalls. Both Henry and Etheline fall in love with each other and their love comes from their friendship. There is no fetishism or tokenism involved, just two old friends who fell in love.
Also in the movie, the outcast father and ex-husband of Etheline, Royal, tries to keep the couple apart so that he can possibly rejoin the family now that he is broke. His attempt at being a racist in order to make Henry look bad and lash out on him is clumsy at best and never really believable, because you cannot hate a guy like Henry Sherman. (Who insults any black person by calling them Coltrane, anyway?)
At the end of the movie Royal apologizes to Henry for being, well, Royal:
Royal: I've always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That's just my style. But I'd really feel blue if I didn't think you were going to forgive me.
Henry Sherman: I don't think you're an asshole, Royal. I just think you're kind of a son of a bitch.
See, even now I defend Wes Anderson and his movies. It’s those moments when I am one and one and see the beauty that is deep inside and not all the tokenism.
It’s not that I think Wes Anderson is a flaming racist, nor an asshole, I just think he’s kind of a son of bitch.
Thanks to Sasha Ali for passing me the critical essays.