Although Wes Anderson’s shabby-chic dioramas are easy to identify thanks to his dollhouse staging, cartoon costuming and frontal compositions, there has yet to be a single image or thought – other than his evocative broad-strokes of childhood – that I have stumbled upon which can define his entire oeuvre (Stanley Kubrick has his monolith, David Lynch has his voyeur peering through the closet door and Steven Spielberg has his shots of faces wide-eyed and slack-jawed astonished by whatever’s before them, all of which singularly apprehend their broad auter sensibilities). Perhaps with ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, I’m one step closer.
With this tough and tender love story, we follow two adolescent paramours in their idyllic mid-60s New England island community who flee from their homes. Sam (Jared Gilman) absconds from the tent of his Khaki Scouts camp while Suzy (Kara Hayward) deserts her family estate, Summer’s End (a lighthouse decorated internally and externally with the fabrics and textures that have come to define Anderson’s aesthetic – the self-consciously retro fashions, the brightly coded, exactingly manicured mise-en scène). After their wilderness sojourn, behaving like the sweetly sociopathic Sheen and Spacek from ‘Badlands’, the pair are soon caught by a tired search party consisting of Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis, thus eschewing the deus ex machina which too often marred Anderson’s work this century.
Anderson, throughout its short 94 minute running time, shows a greater degree of spontaneity than ever before, almost mirroring the resourcefulness of the young couple on the run. Shaking off his famous fastidiousness, Anderson’s new legion of actors introduce interesting behavioural flourishes which fully realise their characters (including a neat cameo by Tilda Swinton as a lavender-caped but unnamed Social Services worker) rather than making them just silhouetted cut-outs. Indeed, rather than producing another lavishly rendered ordeal like the utterly forgettable ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ in which adults do very little other than moan and brood, Anderson has finally got around to making a film about real children, thus enabling him to deploy his precocious discernment and pop-art fetishism in order to demonstrate where these two kids exist in the long shadow of approaching, both literal and figurative, adulthood – their tale is a fleeting moment of brief sanctuary from stifling parental authority. Most of his films have been about these strongholds of postponed adolescence and arrested development, where decadent world-weariness is synonymous with a just-as-smart midlife malaise. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ works – and works, in places, as wondrously and hilariously as ‘Rushmore’ and ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ – because it ruptures all these particular themes without laying waste to that much-debated trademark veneer. I’m so pleased that his style hasn’t descended into shtick.
Nick Nolte and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are starting to look dangerously alike.
No? Well, I’m sorry I even brought it up.