There may be no more definitive polemic in Indie Cinema over the past ten years than the works and aftermath of Wes Anderson. Anyone who has problems with the idea of Twee probably hasn’t appreciated what occurred to a large swath of indie filmmaking after Anderson’s light humor came to infect films outside of his own.
But with Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, it’s hard to think of Anderson as a plague to cinema. In his most Wes-Andersony release yet, it’s apparent that the man is one of the most unique and talented filmmakers working.
Set on a small secluded island off the coast of New England, Moonrise Kingdom traces storylines of several trademark Anderson characters (a sad policeman in thick-framed glasses, a scoutmaster experiencing a premature midlife crisis, Bill Murray) as they search for a runaway couple – Khaki Scout Sam and “troubled child” Suzy, both 12-years-old – on what is imagined to be a romantic getaway.
Given the filmmaker, these twelve-year-olds aren’t your typical preteens. Growing up in an era that considered them to be more childlike, Anderson draws a larger disparity by giving them dialogue you would expect out of a more serious and bored adult – but coming out of child actors, it burns with weird sincerity.
It’s not just to be adorable, though. It provides ironic contrast with the grown-up characters. All on the search for the would-be lovers, they’re forced to reevaluate their own anticlimactic lives, and question what adulthood is supposed to be. On the flipside are Sam and Suzy who, if naive, are certainly very happy in pretending to be more mature than they are.
Taking a cue from Anderson’s most recent film – a foray into animation with Fantastic Mr. Fox – Moonrise Kingdom has more of a storybook quality than any of his other live-action work. Filmed in hazy 16mm, the cinematography looks time-appropriate but with Anderson’s requisite dollhouse camera movement and framing.
As with other Wes Anderson ensembles, the cast of Moonrise Kingdom is wide and warm. Justifying their place in the director’s posse of actors are returning players Jason Scwartzman and Bill Murray, alongside natural new additions like Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton. Even the child actors for Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are to be noted – neither play as large as most of Anderson’s roles, but both operate with sincerity and anchor the center of a very quirky story.
Looking over this review, I regret having used the word “Anderson” as much as I do. A film is more than its director, and I know other members of the crew contributed significantly to making Moonrise Kingdom the adorable but dense film it is.
But the problem is that Anderson’s work over the past 16 years (including this most recent, seventh film) is too individual to be considered meaningfully compared to other filmmakers’ works. There will always be immitators, but no one will ever be able to make something as precious and wonderful as a Wes Anderson film other than Wes Anderson.