Fourteen years ago I bounced out of my seat at the end of Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.” It was one of the happiest moments of my moviegoing life. Anderson had appropriated the French New Wave in order to honor this very particular type of young American attitude. It was mock-sophisticated and actually sophisticated, pretentious and unpretentious, arch but sincere – this impossible balance of snobbery, warmth, and pseudo-adolescent craftsmanship. Were you so inclined, it was the sort of movie you would have made about your own high-school experience – a comedy that exalted your brilliance, “Ferris Bueller” with a much higher SAT score. When it was over, I just kept saying, “yes, yes, yes.”
Anderson was talented. He had a voice. His movie was also – in this droll, self-styled manner – cool. “Rushmore” was a promise of future greatness. But the future was long in arriving. “The Royal Tenenbaums” got a lot of the way there, but Anderson’s ideas of adultness paled in comparison to the real thing. It was a pantomime of maturity. The movies that followed it were like isolationist tantrums, full of painstaking moviemaking but bereft of breathable air. One was a fiasco set on a boat and submarine. The next was set mostly on a moving train – in India, a country Anderson ultimately couldn’t be bothered, culturally, to explore. He wasn’t growing. He was making socially illiterate coffee-table movies.