Saturday, February 24, 2018

To See or Not to See: Fantastic Mr. Fox fundamental fall film

September 21, 2016 by Finlay Pogue, contributing writer

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fall is upon us, and while we wait for the tail-end summer movie dregs to drain out of the theatres, we turn to a film that is surely the embodiment of fall, a film that has the warmth of a home and the beauty of the pastel-autumn landscape: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).

Directed by Wes Anderson, the master of aesthetic, the first thing the viewer notices about the film is its colour pallet: worn reds, baked yellows, and burnt oranges shrouding the story and bringing Roald Dahl’s novel to life. Fall has never looked so good.

Dahl’s importance to the film cannot be overstated, for without it the Wes Anderson-ness may have taken over and suffocated the story in cutesy orchestration. There are times when I would have liked the dialogue to be a tad more biting, or the perils a bit more sinister—instead I was often more concerned with the characters’ existential crises than by the fox-blood-hungry farmers (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a peculiar one). Dahl’s story keeps the narrative sharp the whole way through, elevating it past a mere children’s movie into something much more profound.

Fantastic Mr. Fox really and truly is a Wes Anderson movie, and, like most of his films, it is impeccable. Working with stop-motion, the medium Anderson was made to work with, Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the rare films in which nearly every shot is perfect. In terms of framing, colour palette, set design, and attention to detail, each frame is like a painting, and is a work of art.

Fantastic Mr. Fox has an aching, tired way about it—like the leaves that fall from trees—that gives the story another layer of emotion. It’s not just a caper movie, or a heist movie, or a family drama, or a coming-of-age tale; it’s all of these things, and therefore much more varied and interesting.

But it’s not frenzied like other Anderson films, and it never loses sight of where it’s going. George Clooney and Meryl Streep have two of the best voices in the business, and they give beautiful and poignant life to their characters, while also keeping the film grounded, and, in the end, human.

This is such a wonderful film for a time of year that comes in with inevitable melancholy. Plants hibernate, temperatures cool, and rains saturate the land; we humans begin retreating to the warm indoors and start to hunker down for the long haul. Fantastic Mr. Fox captures the melancholy of this great autumn slow-down and delivers it to you with a poignancy, humour, and beauty that makes it all worthwhile in the end.

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