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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Greatest Wes Anderson Characters
We profile the eccentric population of the most stylish films around

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8. ALISTAIR HENNESSEY

Jeff Goldblum - The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Film: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
Played by: Jeff Goldblum

Every great hero needs a nemesis and it so, it turns out, does Steve Zissou. His comes in the suave, half-gay shape of Jeff Goldblum’s nautical magnate Alistair Hennessey. He’s less a salty seadog than some kind of sea-dandy, purring across the oceans in a cloud of refined self-satisfaction, like a cross between Leif Ericson and Louis XIV. In fact, if he cared to swap researching turtles for, say, contriving nuclear war, he’d make an excellent Bond villain. To make things worse for his rival, he was also married to Zissou’s wife (Anjelica Huston) who still refers to him by the affectionate epithet “Skinny”. Zissou opts for plain old “Al”.


7. FRANCIS WHITMAN

Owen Wilson - The Darjeeling Limited

Film: The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Played by: Owen Wilson

Owen Wilson gets his best roles in Wes Anderson films, which seems fair given how long the two have known one another. Like Bottle Rocket’s Dignan or Tenenbaum’s Eli Cash, Darjeeling’s Francis is an endlessly enthusiastic blowhard who hides deep wells of pain beneath the bouncy energy. In Darjeeling, it’s clear that his brothers find his mania for organisation and habit of ordering on their behalf infuriating (it’s notable that he’s always right on their preferences), but his quest to bond with them and the late revelation of the origin of his horrific injuries shows a vulnerable side that belies that obsession with control. While other filmmakers tend to focus on the happy-go-lucky Owen Wilson, Anderson always leavens his characters with a little tragedy.


6. FELICITY FOX

Felicity Fox - Fantastic Mr. Fox

Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Voiced by: Meryl Streep

This may be one of about three movies Meryl Streep hasn’t been Oscar-nominated for, but don’t disregard how much emotional ballast her Mrs. Fox offers as the crazed caperings go on around her. Softly-spoken, slow to anger but fiery when provoked, she’s the ultimate mother figure in Andersonworld. She’s gifted, encouraging of her troubled son and passionately protective of her family, but never a blousy Norman Rockwell-like matriarch. When we meet her, she’s helping her husband with his ill-conceived squab-raiding, but she soon makes it clear that his cussed cuss won’t be worth a cussing cuss if he doesn’t leave the crime behind. She’s also a dab hand at painting stormy landscapes.


5. MARGOT TENENBAUM

Margot Tenenbaum - The Royal Tenenbaum

Film: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Played by: Gwyneth Paltrow

Margot Helen Tenenbaum, adoptive daughter of the genius clan and playwright of some note, is the single most secretive character even in Anderson’s weird world. It emerges in the end that she had a secret marriage, secret affairs and – most damning of all – a secret smoking habit that she has kept hidden from everyone for most of her life. That seems to be the straw that breaks her marriage to Raleigh St. Clair, the psychologist who can’t figure her out, and even her devoted (adoptive) brother Richie is shaken to his core. All in all, this is the most interesting, non-predictable, layered role that Paltrow has ever had.

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Your Comments

1
Great list, and I'd say that the top three are pretty spot on, but no Pagoda? For shame... More

Posted by thejonner on Sunday March 9, 2014, 18:15

2
Great list, and I'd say that the top three are pretty spot on, but no Pagoda? For shame... More

Posted by thejonner on Sunday March 9, 2014, 18:15

3 Slightly unfair on bottle rocket!
Yeh Dignan was a suprising omission to me too, I really dug bottle rocket, probably the one most rooted in reality but no less whimsical, witty or emotive. The reviewer seems not to feel this way, fair enough, it's a game of opinions! but to say " leaving bottle rocket aside" is "fairly easily done" seems a tad harsh! Thanks for ponting out Castello Cavalcanti mind, not seen this before. More

Posted by iainwilson87 on Sunday March 9, 2014, 11:14

4 Terrible Omission!
Where is one of my favourite Wes creations?! Dignan!!!!!! So hilariously funny. Particularly surprised you chose another character from this film to include in your list. Thanks for great list anyway More

Posted by GocartMozart on Saturday March 8, 2014, 10:53

5 Terrible Omission!
Where is one of my favourite Wes creations?! Dignan!!!!!! So hilariously funny. Particularly surprised you chose another character from this film to include in your list. Thanks for great list anyway More

Posted by GocartMozart on Saturday March 8, 2014, 10:53

6
Max Fisher at number 3? are you out of your mind! He the best character to come out of Wes Anderson weirdly creative head! More

Posted by Darren47 on Friday March 7, 2014, 18:19


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