Will Wes Anderson ever return to the blunt sexuality of the Hotel Chevalier overture to The Darjeeling Limited? The mannered style of his new film, Moonrise Kingdom, suggests, perhaps, an adieu to innocence. It’s a remarkable fantasy creation at the same time that it knowingly presents a sophisticated deconstruction of prelapsarian innocence.
Moonrise Kingdom is titled for the idyll shared by two New England preteens in love, Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman). It’s the name they give an unchristened cove previously known by its map coordinates, or the technical “Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet.”
Suzy and Sam are both 12 years old, but Anderson’s personalized vision makes their identities emerge affectionately; Suzy’s detached from her parents and three brothers, Sam’s an orphan isolated from the delinquents in his foster home and his scout troop. They are typical Anderson protagonists—which means nothing about them is typical.
Both Suzy and Sam’s intelligence arises from their self-conscious loneliness as part of their survival tactics; she reads books about girls in danger, he becomes an exemplary boy scout. Their shared paradise might not last into adulthood, but instead of Stand By Me’s sappy view of adolescence, Anderson offers fine insight into their specific emotional qualities.
Leaning toward fantasy, Anderson studies the depths of personality. Suzy and Sam are not sexualized, like the Peter and Wendy in P.J. Hogan’s extraordinary 2003 Peter Pan. This is also a runaway’s story, like François Ozon’s Criminal Lovers, a Hansel and Gretel tale mixing Night of the Hunter and They Lived By Night, but Anderson favors a chaste view of sexual precocity.
This delicate, eccentric sensibility of Anderson’s films (The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tenenbaums) confuses some people, but his meticulous visualization of feeling and adolescent experience is what distinguishes his cinema. Childhood isn’t coddled in an excessive or nostalgic way, it provides a key to Anderson’s sense of basic human nature.
The adults in Moonrise Kingdom—Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand), Sam’s Scout master, Ward (Edward Norton), and the local police captain, Sharp (Bruce Willis)—display an older but similar weariness and dissatisfaction. Despite the farcical tone, no one is infantilized; all are seen compassionately. Norton’s weak chin and slight lisp personify the dweeb that is Anderson’s specialty. He’s not brilliant like the nerds Jason Schwartzman plays for Anderson, rather, he’s one of Moonrise Kingdom’s mundane, unjudged innocents.
Starting with Suzy’s brothers listening to Benjamin Britten’s 1946 recording The Young Person‘s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34 (Themes A-F), Anderson diagrams the basic social unit of family in a remarkable series of lateral pans through the Bishop family frame house, then through the campsite of Sam’s Kahaki Scouts unit at Camp Ivanhoe. The idea of musical variations serves Anderson’s method of describing social groups and human relations. Each character is introduced in their private rooms, personal worlds—individuals as part of a whole.
To read the full review at CityArts click here.
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