Deep breath. Exhale.
What Steven Spielberg has been doing for over 30 years, and what Christopher Nolan is doing now, writing and directing well-crafted and artistic films for the masses, is to be applauded for sure. No small feat.
However, the real gems, the smaller films you discover and pass on to your crew, usually come from that exclusive tier of uniquely talented filmmakers whose voices are so specific you would know their material from a single frame, dialogue exchange, or casting combination.
Woody Allen, Charlie Kaufman, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, and in many respects, the Coen Brothers, come to mind.
Oh yeah, Wes Anderson fits in that group as well. How could I forget?
Maybe because Wes Anderson has almost become his own sub-division of that group. He has taken the baton from Woody Allen and blazed a new path of storytelling for a new generation of cinephiles.
It began all the way back in 1994 when an unknown writer-director teamed up with an unknown actor-writer to make a short film.
That short film became a $1m budgeted full-length festival darling called Bottle Rocket. It is still my favorite collaboration between Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. It is the caper movie to end all caper movies. I’d rather watch Bottle Rocket for a 20th time over watching five minutes of Ocean’s Eleven or The Italian Job.
After Bottle Rocket came Rushmore, the film that not only “saved Latin,” but made Anderson a recognizable brand. Then came The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, and the brilliant animated adventure Fantastic Mr. Fox. All of these films are fresh and funny and bursting with artistic glee. Ok, maybe not “bursting,” but percolating for sure.
Anderson’s films can be a bit precious. Even his most devout followers would have to admit that. But they are so unapologetically and sincerely precious that it’s kind of hard to throw darts at them. It would be like looking at two adorable kittens playing in a yarn basket and saying that you wish a piano would land on them.
Moonrise Kingdom opens in the upstairs play room of a quaint home called ‘Summer’s End’ on the quaint Northeastern island of New Penzance in the quaint year of 1965. A young boy plays a record album on his phonograph. His siblings sit in rapt attention as we hear a man narrate a tutorial on the various elements that make up orchestral music.
The story that unfolds is then Anderson’s display of elements that make up a compelling love story.
The little boy’s older sister, ‘Suzy,’ runs away to join her pen pal, a local runaway Khaki Scout from Camp Invanhoe.
Ed Norton plays ‘Scout Master Ward,’ the commandant of Camp Ivanhoe. Norton is a chain-smoking taskmaster who begins each morning with a sensible breakfast and a scan through Indian Corn Magazine.
Once ‘Scout Master Ward’ learns he has a runaway Scout, he sends out a posse of Khaki Scouts to bring him back.
Simultaneously, ‘Suzy’s’ eccentric parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) learn their daughter is missing and enlist the island’s top cop, ‘Captain Sharp’ (Bruce Willis) to bring her back.
The pursuit is a hoot – goofy sweet and whimsically adventurous.
The teen runaways both deliver perfect Wes Anderson performances. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman not only make believable the awkward romance, but manage to speak the sophisticated dialogue with appropriate dead pan and just enough tender angst.
Anderson’s films always strike an unmistakably nostalgic pallet. He is clearly a writer who understands the significance of not only analyzing one’s childhood, but celebrating the minutia in it, as much as the pivotal events that shape us.
There is a particularly sweet scene after the young lovers have consummated their relationship with a kiss (a french kiss!). ‘Suzy’ and ‘Sam’ sit comfortably together as she reads aloud to him from a book titled The Disappearance of the 6th Grade.
Somewhere in the title of that book lies Wes Anderson’s inspiration for Moonrise Kingdom. Or not.
Here is another review you Anderson junkies may enjoy.