This week Wes Anderson‘s lovely “Moonrise Kingdom” is released in a sparkly new Criterion Collection edition. Coming after the left-turn that was the animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” which followed the slightly disappointing one-two punch of 2004’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and 2007’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” many viewers (Playlisters among them) found ‘Moonrise’ not just a return to form, but one of his best films to date. Mining a rich seam of emotion that his occasionally too-precious aesthetic can sometimes put at a remove, “Moonrise Kingdom,” while gorgeous, symmetrical, and slathered in trademark whip-pans and deadpan expressions, is actually touching.
And a lot of that is in the suite of cherishable performances given by an ensemble of Anderson regulars, marked out by a few new additions. It has reminded us once again of Anderson’s facility for creating (often through costume or a physical quirk, it must be said) a coterie of memorable, offbeat characters. And so we’ve embarked on this magnificent folly: a ranked list of our top 70 (that’s seventy) Wes Anderson characters. As passionate as many of us are about his films, we all seem to be most passionate about different ones, so this was not a list arrived at lightly… you’ve been warned that controversy no doubt lies ahead.
70. Vladimir Wolodarsky (Noah Taylor in “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”)
Proof positive that the right casting can turn the tiniest role into something more interesting, the only things assistant/sidekick/factotum Wolodarsky really has going for him in Anderson’s patchiest film are Taylor’s endearingly wonky expressions. And that’s enough, really.
69. Rita (Amara Karan in “The Darjeeling Limited”)
Unsurprisingly gorgeous but surprisingly earthy for an Anderson female, no-bullshit train stewardess Rita engages in nameless copulation with Jack (Jason Schwartzman) more as means to passing the time at work than out of any real affection. Her pillow talk? “Don’t come into me.”
68. Oseary Drakoulias (Michael Gambon in “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”)
Zissou’s producer and behind-the-scenes puppeteer, Drakoulias could easily have been a stock character but is made something more grandiose by Gambon’s blustering, irascible performance and Anderson’s innate sympathy for the character of the aging blowhard battling irrelevance.
67. Clotilde (Lea Seydoux in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”)
Yes, it’s a waste that Seydoux gets so little screentime as sulky French chambermaid Clotilde. Then again, how great is it that Anderson stacks his casts so much we get Seydoux’s pout in a role that’s scarcely more than an extra’s?
66. Bill Ubell (Bud Cort in “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”)
It’s never less than a joy to see “Harold and Maude” star Cort crop up in anything, but his tiny role here is a particular pleasure, as we get to see his beige-clad “bond company stooge” blossom under Zissou’s gruff tutelage.
65. J. Cavalcanti (Jason Schwartzman in “Castello Cavalcanti” short)
One of a series of Prada-sponsored shorts that Anderson directed, ‘Cavalcanti’ s probably the best, not least for Schwartzman’s great performance as the racecar driver who (mystically?) crashes during an Italian road race in the town of his “ancestors.”
64. Henckels (Edward Norton in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”)
An actor Anderson loves to put in a uniform, Norton brings a dimension of humanity and reluctance to the role of the inspector whose duty it is to run M. Gustave down, though his personal sympathies might run counter to that.
63. Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson in “Fantastic Mr Fox”)
The effortlessly good-at-everything cousin who comes to stay and highlights all our own inadequacies and neuroses is such a well-observed character that we scarely even notice that the smart, attractive, athletic, yogic Kris is, you know, a stop-motion fox.
62. Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston in “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”)
Huston’s roles for Anderson do all rather conflate into one: a bitingly acerbic mother/mature love interest who has nonetheless a spiritual, hippy-dippy side. Eleanor might be the least of these, but Huston never gives less than extraordinary good value.
61. Petey (Jarvis Cocker in “Fantastic Mr Fox”)
It’s a tiny part, but for those in the know, the fact that the role is voiced by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker gives Petey’s few exchanges, especially when he’s accused of “weak songwriting” by Franklin Bean an extra layer of self-deprecating wit.