Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

This was quite a weekend. Friday, my toilet backed up, not from anything I did, but sewage back up from the pipes below. Saturday, the plumbers came over, and stayed for five hours.I found out that my apartment is the end of the line for the sewage system, and that all the tributaries had been blocked. The plumbers were great and conscientious, but still my kitchen and bathroom floors were covered in black sludge, and it was tracked through on the floors.

On the bright side, I was at home cleaning for five hours on Saturday, did some sorting and pitching I've been meaning to do, went to Target and got shelf paper and lysol, and went to town on everything. Today I washed my rugs, I put shelf paper on some cabinets I've been meaning to, and I've mopped my floors and treated them with antibacterial spray about 4 times. So everything is sparkling. IN the midst of the plumbers being here, I was looking for something to do and I peeled a pomegranate, putting the seeds in the refrigerator for use on yogurt, and I also pulled brussel sprouts of the stalk I had bought and sauteed them in a wok with ghee and a little salt.

From this, I found out once again I like to be busy. Again.

And I also learned that sometimes something that seems like a mishap can actually turn out to be a good thing--I have cleaner pipes, cleaner shelves, food for the week, and clean floors.

Work even did that for me--what was a week of anxiety, no sleep, soul-searching turned out to give me a new focus and vision as well as clarity on why I am where I am and if
I am interested in that moving forward. And that I needed.

I suppose I'm trying to relate this to "Fantastic Mr. Fox", the wonder-ful new movie from Wes Anderson--mostly about one supposedly bad experience leading to new clarity. I loved this movie. I didn't know the book, which is surprising since "James and the Giant Peach" was in my top three growing up of repeat reads. And I imagine, if I had read it, FMF might have been the same. I heard an interview with Wes Anderson this weekend, who said that this book was the first piece of property he owned, and that is the copy he kept going back to while making this film. And that's not surprising to hear. The film itself feels well-loved, and I don't think that would have been possible without a deep affection for the source.

It's beautifully shot, imaginatively directed, with a great sense of whimsy, but also of relationships. It feels simultaneously grounded and ridiculous, which for me is the best kind of "kids" movie. The voice talent is spectacular, rooted in the central relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Fox voiced by George Clooney and Meryl Streep. I don't know of two other actors who could have pulled this off. He has to be charming enough to lead an entire brigade, and she has to be charmed enough, but also aware of all his failings. I'm making it sound much more mundane than it plays. He's a reporter; she's a landscape painter. Anderson also has fun with the son, Ash, voiced by Jason Schwartzmann, and his perfect cousin Kristofferson, voiced by Eric Anderson. Also along are Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Michael Gambon as a the most terrifying of the trio of villians. It's a can't-lose with the voices, really.

The story concerns Mr. Fox who can't help, well, being a fox. And his existential crisis sets off the action of the film:

"Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?"

He creates all the situations that he has to get out of himself, because that's who he is. If he's not wily, he has nothing to do. So an act of theft, which for him is a thrill ride and in his nature, sets of a chain of revenge that effects everyone around him. In the end, everyone probably would have been better off if he hadn't done what he did, but who's to say? Through the actions of Mr. Fox and the events they set off, everyone finds out that the best thing that these animals can do is be the animals they are--that no matter how civilized they are, they'll always revert back to their basic natures. It could be looked at as bleak, but I saw it more that it was necessary for each of them to what they do best when put to the test; by being who they were, they were able to adapt and find a way out of the situation. Those natures are never far. In a brilliant bit, the animals never eat food, even at a table with a suit on, they devour it. By coming back to their animal natures and strengths, they are able to come back to some kind of status quo. And, of course learn something in the process. Of course, you could probably get something else out of it, too.

The animation is careful, hysterical, and meticulous. I can't wait to see it again to just see the details that I missed. The beginning just made me giddy, with a weasel real estate agent, fast-talking squirrel movers, and an adolescent, tooth-brushing fox. But it's the richness of the relationships that will keep me coming back - The chemistry classroom scene alone with a poor Ash realizing he's losing the interest of his lab partner to his perfect cousin is worth the price of admission. It reminds me of what Rankin/Bass did mixed with the sensibility of a Wes Anderson film and Wallace and Gromit. Near the end, in the climax, there's a moment where the film stops and you realize there's more in the world, and that threats lurk - I won't ruin it by telling what it is, since then you'll wait for it, but it's just another great layer in a suprisingly layered, satisfying film. I hope a lot of kids see it.

In the words of Mrs. Fox, "You know, you really are...fantastic."

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Can't wait to see this with my boys. Henry is a Roald Dahl lover as I was. I like your domestic story and sadly feel in need of doing all the things you so assiduously did...