With The French Dispatch hitting theaters this week, it is easy to feel compelled to look back on the prolific body of work of Wes Anderson. The French Dispatch not only marks the director’s tenth feature film, but 2021 marks 25 years since his debut feature, Bottle Rocket. Whether you love him or hate him and his oft-criticized commitment to “quirk,” Anderson’s dedication to the stylistic refinement of his filmmaking for the past two decades has made him into one of our most singular, recognizable, and uncompromising voices. It is a miracle that he is able to keep chugging away with his strange, symmetrical films amidst an industry becoming less and less hospitable to directors like him every day.
But I digress. Of the numerous distinctive things to have defined Anderson’s work for the past two decades, a recurring narrative thread is dysfunctional romance. This can be seen between an obsessed teenager and a schoolteacher, a brother and his adopted sister, a pregnant journalist and a man claiming to be the long-lost son of a famous oceanographer, or, more recently, a student protestor and a reporter three times his age. Anderson, frequently reproached for choosing style over substance, adores writing deeply fucked-up characters. And the lovers in Anderson’s film are not only consistently troubled, but the circumstances of their love tend to be equally defective. Thus, I thought it would be fun to celebrate 25 years of Wes Anderson—a director who loves stupid love, and consistently utilizes a varying ensemble of famous faces—by using science, math and my own personal biases to choose which of Anderson’s characters are, truly, the most dateable.
I’m not gonna lie, two Luke Wilson characters making this list is less symptomatic of whether or not his characters are “dateable” and more just me having a crush on Luke Wilson. But this is my list, so I get to do whatever the fuck I want. Still, I think it’s a no-brainer that Wes wrote particularly boyfriend-material roles for Luke (he plays the dateable doctor friend of Rosemary Cross in Rushmore). And the romantic, well-intentioned-but-troubled Anthony Adams definitely ranks among the most realistic choices in this list. He’s a loyal friend to his overly-ambitious criminal pal Dignan, joining in on Dignan’s various schemes on the path to their “75-year plan.” But it isn’t long before Anthony falls for a girl and he’s torn between his friend and his desire for stability. Anthony is, in the end, just a sweet guy who wants to do the right thing for the people he loves. I would settle down and start a life with this man and NOT just because he looks like Luke Wilson.
Ok, so Edward Appleby is dead. And he’s not actually in the film beyond a photo of him in his childhood bedroom, in the house where he and wife Rosemary Cross lived. But hear me out: Compared to most of the other players in Rushmore, I have to argue that Appleby is the best option. Max Fischer is…well, he’s Max Fischer. Herman Blume is bitter, miserable and married. Sorry, but I’m gonna have to pass on Max’s dad and Dr. Guggenheim. Even Rosemary is off the table because she’s still too hung up on old Appleby. And in the sake of fairness, I simply cannot pick a third Luke Wilson character for this list. No, we’re gonna have to go with Edward Appleby, played in his brief photographic appearance by Owen Wilson, who had once written a message in the Jacques Cousteau library book that Max finds and which leads him to Rosemary. But neither Max nor Herman, hopelessly in love with Rosemary, can live up to the enduring memory of Appleby. Clearly, he must have been a great guy. Why not form an unhealthy obsession with someone who’s dead?
Richie Tenenbaum holds the mantle as one of the preeminent “I Can Fix Him” film boys plastered in photos and GIFs across the internet during the 2010s. If you used Tumblr religiously as an angsty teenager and called yourself a cinephile, but you didn’t want to fix Richie Tenenbaum, you were doing something wrong. I think Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was doing with Luke Wilson, and maybe the absence of the younger Wilson brother in Wes’s later films is a product of Luke’s sexual energy simply being too overpowering. But the chokehold that Richie Tenenbaum had on emo teen girls like myself when we were in high school cannot be overstated. Again, is he dateable? Well, uhhh…he’s in love with his stepsister. But he’s a ROMANTIC! And he’s TROUBLED! And he’s RICH! And he has LONG! HAIR!! He’s also a (formerly) successful and renowned tennis player, and he’s got a pet hawk named Mordecai which makes him eccentric and unique. Ultimately, dating Richie Tenenbaum would be this image.
In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Willem Dafoe plays Klaus Daimler—famous oceanographer Steve Zissou’s keen right-hand man aboard the research vessel “Belafonte.” The crew of the Belafonte are tasked with helping Zissou in his quest to track down and kill the tiger shark that ate his best friend. Daimler is exceedingly dedicated to Zissou, which implies that when it comes to matters of the heart he would be equally devoted. However, due to this very devotion to Zissou, it’s possible that Zissou could end up taking center stage among his relationships regardless of any romantic endeavors. There’s also Daimler’s issues with jealousy, as evidenced by the arrival of Owen Wilson’s character, Zissou’s alleged long-lost son, Ned, and the rivalry for Zissou’s attention that forms between the two of them. Regardless, I’m not sure how you can look at Willem Dafoe in that little hat and those little shorts and not feel a deep primal urge.
Being who I am, my first thought with The Darjeeling Limited is “Which of the three Whitman boys would I want to date?” As someone who’s a major simp for Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, this is immediately where my mind goes. But eventually I came to the conclusion that the answer is definitively: None of them. The Whitman brothers have too many problems, if you can believe it. Their family is a mess, they’re a mess and it doesn’t seem like a very smart sort of situation to get involved in an intimate capacity. Instead, I would humbly choose Rita (Amara Karan), the cute train attendant of the luxury Darjeeling Limited careening across India, who unwisely becomes involved with the romantically-plagued Jack Whitman while the three brothers are traveling aboard. Rita basically acts as a rebound for Jack, following the dramatic breakup between him and his ex, Rhett. Their passionate but brief secret love affair ends with Rita getting the short end of the stick, but now it’s someone else’s chance to prove Alphadom over Jack Whitman.
Cousin Kris is a catch only if you’re a teenaged fox, but nobody knows how dateable Kristofferson Silverfox is better than his envious cousin Ash. When Kris comes to live with his relatives, the Foxes, for an indeterminate amount of time, Mr. Fox’s son, Ash, finds his status as the inadequate failson further amplified upon the arrival of the charming, multi-talented Kristofferson. It’s no wonder that Ash’s longtime crush at school begins to fall for thoughtful, athletic, intelligent, creative little Kris, just like all the other animals within the Foxes’ community. Not to step on poor Ash’s toes here—it’s rough being the black sheep of the family—but Kristofferson is the obvious front-runner. It’s made even worse for poor Ash by the fact that Kristofferson is not only physically better than him at most things, he’s also just a really nice guy. Of course, Ash gets to put his own skills on display when he has to help save Ash from capture by the horrid farmers Bogus, Bunce and Bean, but I believe Kris is gifted with real longevity here.
Though a choice restricted by age demographic, Sam Shakusky is kinda undeniably the clear winner. He manages to be the smartest and most worthy person in Moonrise Kingdom by a longshot. It’s the irony, of course, that all the adults in the film can’t seem to get their shit together by comparison to a couple of defiant, lovesick 12-year-olds. This paves the way for Sam and his new girlfriend, Suzy, to outwit said adults on their impractical adventure towards escape from the island of New Penzance, where Suzy lives with her depressed, unfulfilled parents and where Sam, an orphan, is staying with his disagreeable Khaki Scout summer camp. Sam is precocious, resourceful, fearless and, perhaps, above all, a hopeless romantic. The only adult character who manages to almost match Sam in disposition is Bruce Willis’s Police Captain Sharp, who ends up taking Sam in and becoming his guardian at the end of the film. But, sadly, you know…he’s a cop.
The legendary concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel just feels like the most apt pick from the eponymously-titled film, even if it’s yet another choice restricted by demographic. For you see, M. Gustave H. is only attracted to women of a certain age—that age being wealthy octogenarians, whom the seductive, refined concierge is infamous for wooing when they come to sojourn at his establishment. But, as described in the film, Monsieur Gustave is a particularly generous and accommodating lover, and he genuinely felt deep affection for his most enduring affair with the late Madame D. The 84-year-old adored the concierge so much that she left the most precious item in her fortune—the priceless painting “Boy with Apple”—to Gustave H. in the aftermath of her mysterious death. Thus, it is safely surmised that Gustave H. does not actually seduce these women for their material wealth. He kinda just has a type. I mean, don’t we all? And can you really blame these old biddies for succumbing to Gustave H.’s charms when they come in the form of Ralph Fiennes?
Despite the fact that of the two of Wes’s stop-motion, talking animal films, this is the one that features non-horrendous-looking principal human characters, I’m still gonna be a little freak and pick one of the animals. And the animal that I’m picking is the sexy girl dog voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Among the scraggly, malnourished, diseased canines living in squalor and isolation on the titular Dog Island is the former show dog, Nutmeg. She manages to keep her shiny coat pristine and her ability to stand on her hind legs and balance a nine-pound bowling ball on her nose well intact. Plus, the scourge of canine influenza in Megasaki that caused the dogs to be dumped off on Trash Island in the first place has not yet robbed Nutmeg of her attractiveness, unlike the rest of the poor abandoned pets. Thus, it’s no wonder that a rumor spreads among the animals that Nutmeg was mating with a dog named Felix. I mean, she is the hottest dog on Trash Island, after all.
As we spend so little time with any one character in Wes Anderson’s latest—a sprawling, multi-story anthology as told through the framework of the titular newspaper publication—it feels only right to choose the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé as the most dateable character of the director’s tenth feature. The historic, charming town operates as the setting for each of the three “feature articles” in the film, and as the setting for the French Dispatch paper itself, guided for you in detail by the paper’s own travel writer and cycling reporter, Herbsaint Sazerac. Therefore, it’s the character that you end up getting to know the best. And how could anyone not fall in love with those cobblestone streets, canals and shady pickpockets?
Brianna Zigler is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts. Her work has appeared at Little White Lies, Film School Rejects, Thrillist, Bright Wall/Dark Room and more, and she writes a bi-monthly newsletter called That’s Weird. You can follow her on Twitter, where she likes to engage in stimulating discussions on films like Movie 43, Clifford, and Watchmen.