If Wes Anderson had chosen to be a wildly successful restaurateur instead of a wildly successful filmmaker, his establishments would be Instagram darlings. Bright colors would abound, there’d be kitschy wallpaper in the bathroom, and rock and roll from the 1960s would pump from speakers overhead.
Wes Anderson isn’t a restaurateur, but Wes Anderson-esque restaurants with ornate design and cutesy menus are becoming more common. Watch the director’s works — particularly those that have come out since the release of The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, when Anderson’s cinematic style really began to veer into the fantastical — and these sorts of dining rooms will look familiar. Nowadays, it isn’t too difficult to find a place where dinner feels like a scene in one of his movies.
Anderson must love dining. He has saved some of his best dialogue for scenes involving food and drink, and they’ve often been used as key plot points to set up tension and drama. They’re some of the most memorable parts of his films, though it would be nice if he’d include some more people who aren’t white men in these spots.
Isle of Dogs, Anderson’s ninth feature film and his second to use stop-motion animation, premiered in the United States on March 23. To set the mood, here are the greatest dining and drinking scenes in the director’s filmography to date.
“Oh, Are They?” in Rushmore
In his big screen debut at the tender age of 17, Jason Schwartzman played Max Fischer, a precocious prep school student who did not attend the prestigious Rushmore Academy because of family money — his single father worked as a barber — but because of a scholarship earned for a play he had written as a child. Max would like to believe he’s a full-grown adult, a state of mind most evident at a celebratory dinner with his crush and Rushmore teacher Mrs. Cross (Olivia Williams); her boyfriend, Dr. Peter Flynn (Luke Wilson); and older friend/business associate Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Drunk off one whiskey and soda and jealous of Dr. Flynn, Max derisively comments on his “nice nurse’s uniform.” When Flynn explains that his clothes are actually OR scrubs, Max’s retorts with a great bad pun: “Oh, are they?”
The Stolen Espresso Machine in The Life Aquatic
There isn’t a better two-line exchange in any Anderson movie. Near the end of The Life Aquatic, shortly before washed up Jacques Cousteau-meets-Ernest Hemingway documentarian Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew go on a final jaunt to find the elusive jaguar shark, Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) and Bill Ubell (Bud Cort) are relaxing with an espresso and glass of Campari, respectively, aboard Zissou’s research vessel, Belafonte. Hennessey is Zissou’s professional and romantic rival, but at this juncture the two are on good terms following a kidnapping rescue. Bill is a “bond company stooge” along for the ride to make sure Zissou’s latest film project does not put investors’ money at risk.
Hennessey realizes the espresso machine in use has come from his own research boat, which is understandably perplexing. But viewers, and Bill, know Zissou stole the coffee maker — along with a bunch of other equipment. The ensuing dialogue, and the delivery by Goldblum and Cort, is hilarious.
“Is this my espresso machine?” Hennessey asks. “What is — how’d you get my espresso machine?” Ubell, no longer worried about any illegal activity Zissou may have committed during his project, responds: “Well, uh, we fuckin’ stole it, man.”
The Dining Car in The Darjeeling Limited
Anderson’s 2007 movie is the second-best example of his depiction of people who have plenty of money and very little in the way of happiness. (The Royal Tenenbaums is the leader in this category and will likely never be bested.) Peter (Adrien Brody), Francis (Owen Wilson), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) are brothers traveling by train through India, still mourning the death of their father, who was hit by a New York City taxi roughly one year prior. Everyone is chummy in the early going, but when the three head to the locomotive’s dining car, tensions, which will eventually lead to their ejection from the train following a pepper spray incident, begin to arise.
Jack tries to share his latest short story, but Francis wants to know “How long is it?” Francis, recovering from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, takes out a tooth implant before the meal. Peter finds this fairly unsettling and suggests his brother should offer a disclaimer — “please forgive this” — before removing the tooth. He also accidentally spits in Francis’s eye while talking. Then, it’s time to order.
“Let’s see,” Francis says to the server, speaking for the table. “Do we want meat or fish? I’m going to have the chicken. Jack, you want to try the fish? I bet that’s delicious. And Peter, the lamb? A chicken, a fish, and a lamb? How does that sound? Now, who wants a soup? Raise your hand.”
Later, we learn Francis has picked up this annoying habit of ordering for his brothers from their mother. Peter and Jack are visibly perturbed, but they both raise their hand.
A final toast in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Anderson’s first stop-motion movie came out in 2009. An adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name, George Clooney stars as a middle-class fox going through a midlife crisis, husband to Felicity (Meryl Streep) and father to Ash (Schwartzman). Fun dining scenes abound: The foxes constantly break in to nearby chicken coups to devour the birds, but they also enjoy meals that would be eaten by sophisticated humans. The foxes are mostly civilized, but once they tuck in, they become ravenous. They are wild animals, after all.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox ends with the titular character, Felicity, Ash, his friend Kristofferson, and the family’s handyman/friend Kylie, sneaking into a supermarket for a feast after narrowly escaping death at the hands of the poultry farmers. At the behest of his son, Mr. Fox toasts a meal of boxed apple juice, synthetic goose crackles, giblets from artificial squab, and fake-looking apples before an evening of eating and dancing.
“We’ll eat tonight, and we’ll eat together, and even in this not particularly flattering light, you are without a doubt the five-and-a-half most wonderful wild animals I’ve ever met in my life,” Fox says. “So let’s raise our boxes — to our survival.”
Captain Sharp and Sam Share a Beer in Moonrise Kingdom
Like Rushmore did for Schwartzman 14 years earlier, Moonrise Kingdom introduced viewers to young actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in 2012. In this one, just like Max Fischer in Rushmore, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop are kids who desperately want to be adults. The two run away together and are eventually tracked down by Suzy’s parents and the authorities, which leads to a nice heart-to-heart between Sam and local police captain Duffy Sharp (Bruce Willis).
In the ineloquent Captain Sharp’s small kitchen, he and Sam, separated from Suzy and in a state of despair, discuss the events that have transpired. Captain Sharp serves a simple meal of pan-fried sausages and toast, and he offers Sam “a slug” of beer. Sam pours the last swallow of a glass of milk into an ashtray and accepts.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Sharp tells the boy. “Anyway, that’s what you’re supposed to say.”
Courtesan au Chocolat in Prison in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Really, about 90 percent of The Grand Budapest Hotel is a dining scene, since it plays out as a story told during a meal between an aging hotel owner and young author. (It sounds like a fantastic meal: two ducks roasted with olives, rabbit, salad, Pouilly-Jouvet ’52, plus a split of the brut.) One particularly memorable part involves a few hardened inmates dining on delicate pastry in their jail cell. It’s a funny sequence, and it speaks to the world of yesterday — which supposedly was laden with more culture, class, and decorum — that Anderson is depicting.
Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) has been falsely jailed for the murder of his elderly, wealthy lover, and after his morning work serving mush to the residents of Checkpoint 19, he delivers an illicit courtesan au chocolat from Mendl’s patisserie to his friends Pinky (Florian Lukas), Wolf (Karl Markovics), Günther (Volker Michalowski), and Ludwig (a shirtless, head-shaved, tatted-up Harvey Keitel). M. Gustave, presumably, has been delivering this delicacy — a stack of chocolate-filled profiteroles glazed with colorful icing — on a regular basis. After splitting it four ways with the “throat-slitter,” the charming concierge is informed that he has been included in this group’s escape plans. All they need are tools, which can be hidden inside Mendl’s pastries. Prison guards hack into other foodstuffs to make sure there is no contraband, but they don’t dare touch these delicate baked goods; again with the culture.
For Anderson obsessives who are not satisfied by restaurants that happen to look as if they were part of his movies, there is one place that should be a bucket-list destination. In Milan, there is Bar Luce, a café designed by the director himself and featuring all of his standard aesthetic quirks.