The Brothers Bloom and the problem of Wes Anderson's pervasive influence.

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May 21 2009 6:41 AM

The Ubiquitous Anderson

The Brothers Bloom and the problem of Wes Anderson's pervasive influence.

Click here to read a slide show essay on the pervasive influence of Wes Anderson.

Rian Johnson's caper comedy The Brothers Bloom begins its nationwide rollout already burdened with a reputation as an imitation of an American original. If Johnson's terrific debut, Brick, crackled with the borrowed brio of the Coen brothers, early notices for The Brothers Bloom have identified a new muse: Wes Anderson. It's an assessment that the preview and opening sequence hardly dispel.

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But The Brothers Bloom is only the latest addition to a burgeoning subgenre. Over the last few years, Anderson's movies have become touchstones for indie culture. In the 1990s, it seemed every NYU graduate and Sundance contender was making his own Tarantino knockoff. These days, the Tarantino imitators have been replaced by the Wes wannabes. A popular strain in recent American indie cinema has been the Andersonian quirkfest, a tendency that runs through movies like Juno, Napoleon Dynamite, Son of Rambow, Charlie Bartlett, and Garden State, among others.

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The appropriation doesn't stop there. Anderson's trademarks—poker-face eccentricity, affection for the oddball, fastidiously arranged clutter, an affinity for the precocious and childlike—have now become conventions in the larger culture. You can glimpse his style and sensibility in TV shows, music videos and—a true sign that you've arrived—commercials. Anderson's star has dimmed of late, with his last two movies, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007), drawing at best mixed reviews. But the inevitable backlash notwithstanding, Anderson's influence on his contemporaries is evident everywhere you turn.

Click here to read a slide show essay on the pervasive influence of Wes Anderson.

Elbert Ventura is managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.