Looking back, the summer before college was probably one of the best of my life. I became closer to my friends than I ever thought was possible. I fell in love. I spent invaluable time with my family. And my lifelong dream had come true: I was moving to California.
But as the imminent reality of my westbound dream inched closer, the reality I was living in grew foggier day by day. I became increasingly withdrawn as I began to realize that I would soon be 2,031 miles away from my home in Cincinnati — 2,031 miles away from my brothers, my parents, my friends, the love of my life and Skyline Chili — picture steaming hot chili with voluptuous amounts of cheddar cheese and no nutritional value.
As I quickly spiraled into a melodramatic teenage, pre-college depression, I found solace in an unlikely place: the movies of Wes Anderson.
On one lazy summer evening, as my friends and I found ourselves lounging beneath the dimly-lit Midwestern sky, bathing in boredom, melancholy and the all-too-familiar sensation of unrelenting mosquito bites, my friend Taylor suggested that we all go see “Moonrise Kingdom,” which was playing at the local movie theater.
“Wes Anderson’s my favorite director,” Taylor said. “You guys are gonna love it.”
Though I hadn’t heard of Wes Anderson and generally preferred watching old movies, I agreed that we should go see it. What else were we going to do? Cincinnati’s humidity was unforgiving, and a movie theater was the perfect escape. That, and I found it comically fitting that we would be watching a movie called “Moonrise Kingdom” rather than remaining in our own, real-life moonrise kingdom.
After we watched the film, I understood exactly why Wes Anderson was Taylor’s favorite director. Never before had I seen a film that grasped my imagination so intensely. I was instantly pulled into Anderson’s whimsical world of pastel colors, intellectual melodrama and ‘60s record B-sides.
But more than just this distinct aesthetic, it was the characters of Anderson’s films who truly gripped me. Watching these characters — who were primarily adults — engage in childlike, fantastical adventures allowed me to look past the looming thought of my departure from Cincinnati. Be it three estranged brothers traveling across India in search of their mother (“The Darjeeling Limited”) or an eccentric oceanographer venturing out into the deep blue sea to exact revenge on a “jaguar shark” (“The Life Aquatic”), Anderson’s strange but loveable characters and their outlandish, childlike adventures transported me to another world, void of my newfound adult problems.
I watched almost every Wes Anderson film in the days leading up to my departure — every film except “The Royal Tenenbaums,” which tells the story of the three grown Tennenbaum children as their estranged father, Royal, attempts to reconcile his relationship with them.
I spent my last evening in Cincinnati out with my closest friends, discussing future plans and reminiscing about our childhoods. Though I knew I would be home for winter break, that night felt like it was our last.
When I came home at around 6 a.m. the next morning, I knew that I needed to get some sleep before my 9 a.m. flight. But as I entered my house, I found my little brother asleep on the couch, fully clothed with no blanket. A copy of “The Royal Tenenbaums” lay beside him. He must have stayed up, hoping that I’d return early enough to watch the film with him.
I opened the movie’s case and plopped the disc into our DVD player. As I sat down and watched the film with my brother sleeping on the couch beside me, I realized that moving to California wasn’t the end; it was an adventure.
Wes Anderson taught me that I shouldn’t take changes in my life too seriously. Just as Anderson’s characters bravely embarked on youthful adventures in a whimsical world, I too was embarking on a fun journey to curious new area, beginning a new chapter of my life.
Jeremy Siegel is an arts columnist. Contact him at [email protected].