In the modern American cinematic garden, annual harvests continue to grow ever more bountiful. The Soderbergh and Aronofsky trees, well-rooted and stoic, perpetually plop ripe fruit from their branches. One tends to enjoy a lazy stroll down the Coen Brothers patch, plucking at the sweet offerings from within. But the local delicacies, freshest and closest to your heart, satisfy the palate in a way that is simply incomparable, almost indescribable.
Native Houstonian Wes Anderson refuses to deliver even one slightly imperfect crop. Every season, without fail, his produce is pure, filling, comfortable yet nuanced. Moonrise Kingdom is the current submission in this unfailing product line, and like its predecessors, it is tasty, delightful, and teeming with the wisdom and experience of its creator.
There is no better indicator of a true “auteur”: the ability to make films with an intriguing style on every outing while also growing the art; expanding into new territory but retaining that original feel. To this effect, Mr. Anderson is one of our most precious American directors working the lands and fields of today.
This time, Anderson treats us to a heartwarming tale of young love, set on a self-contained, semi-remote island in majestic 1960s New England. Preteens Sam and Suzy (played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, respectively) were meant to be together, and so they concoct via snail-mail a plan to meet up and run away. Sam cleverly Shawshanks himself away from Scouting Troop #55, while Suzy slips out of her home on the island.
Parental figures for the girl come in the form of my generation’s Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, and Anderson mainstay Bill Murray, easily the greatest product of Saturday Night Live (sorry, Sandler — you fell off, hard). No question, though, it is Sam’s initial father figure, Scoutmaster Ward (played by Ed Norton) who steals the show. Norton’s role is flawless, comedic in even the slightest of noticeable gestures or deliveries.
It is a gift that Wes Anderson possesses that allows him to illicit genuine, inspiring performances from every single actor or actress featured in his films, be they nubile fresh faces like our protagonists or storied veterans like Murray, Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Bruce Willis. Over the years, Mr. Anderson has worked with the unknown and the well-known alike, and each time, he extracts from them the very essence of artistic expression, emotion, and storytelling.
The universes he paints, with the unmistakably distinct set and costume designs, the driving synchronicity of ballads and scores, engaging the ear equally alongside the eye, all homogenize perfectly and aid this process. To take a guy like Bruce Willis, who is certainly no stranger to playing the role of police officer, and completely reinvent him, the role itself and how he portrays it, is simply staggering.
Bear in mind, with the exception of Murray and Jason Schwartzman, not one other cast member had ever worked with Wes Anderson (unusual, given his track record, but then again, this is his first “Wilson”-less movie, so there is that), and yet, you would not know it looking at the onscreen collaboration. This is the unambiguous trademark of a genius filmmaker.
A film such as Moonrise Kingdom reminds us why we shuck out the dollars to sit in uncomfortable theatres time and time again. Wes Anderson’s body of work speaks loudly for itself. Poetic fluidity of dialogue and plot progression, conveyed by the most talented thespians in the most tantalizing settings, playfully engage the audience from start to finish. What wonderment we should all share in the fact that Wes Anderson will not cease making quality, entertaining pictures; it’s almost too powerful to quantify.