A pre-teen love story? Coming-of-age story? A comedy? An indie film? With a blockbuster cast? And the title?! What?
Coming into the movie, having read its synopsis, seen its previews, and being even casually aware of Wes Anderson and his cinematic predilections, the movie would seemingly raise too many questions to justify purchasing a ticket, much less making it a safe bet (at least when you're a very, very cheap man). Maybe these considerations weren't present for most, but they sure were for me. I love Wes Anderson, and the movie got a lot of buzz, but it was so . . . odd.
And the movie remained odd throughout. In a delightful, captivating, offbeat, quirky way; sort of a "Pied Beauty" of cinema, at least in the sense of its idiosyncracies of its dialogue, characters, and plot. It was not "pied" in editing or screenplay: the movie flowed seamlessly from start to finish. Wes Anderson is the best out there at integrating character-narrated letters, flashbacks of live action, and cutaways or voice-overs of narrators (a la Alec Baldwin in The Royal Tenenbaums) altogether to produce a visually and emotionally enthralling diorama of color, humor, sympathy, and nostalgia.
The emotional range of the movie is stunning. Anderson's ability to evoke sympathy or scorn for a character is unmatched, and he paints with his audience's full palette of feelings. And he does not limit his expansive palette to feelings: the movie is also a visual feast of color, landscape, and costume. Bill Murray's madras is perfect, as are Bruce Willis's skinny, short ties and Frances McDormand's sundresses. Even the patina on Edward Norton's pocketknife is perfect. All of the characters comfortably inhabit their own space and play their parts in a groundedly realistic fashion--even in the midst of the film's fantastic plot.
The Maine (best guess) coast. Indian Summer, both in the natural calendar, and in the characters' childhood. It's an extremely touching story told with a lighthearted, genuine realism.
Bottom line: if you don't like it, you either had no childhood or have never been outdoors.
Why Colonel Sartoris?
Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.