A Couple of Kooks
There’s a theory, perhaps you’ve heard it, that Wes Anderson is a charlatan. He’s self-consciously arty, the thinking goes: a folksy, pseudo-intellectual whose homespun profundities fail to impress patrons in search of a single recognisable human emotion. He’s a man making beautiful but empty parcels; he’s Mumford and Sons with a movie camera, but hold on kids, is that right? Are Anderson’s films really the kind that people watch to improve themselves; something to talk about, though both parties were left cold, while dining on a Squirrel’s balls at the Jugged Hare?
Those that subscribe to the Anti-Andersonian worldview dislike his means of restyling reality; the New Penzance Island of Moonrise Kingdom can seem like such a cold place, stocked with humans that can’t or won’t alter the register of their interactions when they move from the local stage production of Noah’s Flood to the world outside. Reality just isn’t this formal, say audiences; we’re not so awkward, so lonely; we don’t take ourselves so seriously, and this of course, is what annoys Wes’ detractors the most. He depends on the disconnect between his self-important protagonists and the better-adjusted voyeurs in the house for chuckles, ‘but,’ cry the naysayers, ‘we hate these stiffs, and we can no more relate to them than an autistic child. We can’t live on art direction alone. You’re killing us in there!’
Well I’m going to stand up for Wes Anderson. You see, boys and girls, we’ve been force fed approximations of feeling for so long; mainstream movies’ makeover of naturalism; that we don’t recognise a new lie that tells the truth. We *are awkward, we are lonely and we definitely take ourselves too seriously. Turn and face the mirror. Well, go on!
Young Suzi and Sam may appear almost devoid of life, like two stop-motion animated figurines, but I suggest they’re simply purified adolescents; kids with all the lying, grandstanding and rambling extracted. Isn’t young love always us versus them? Isn’t it artless and graceless and naive? And isn’t that first inner-rousing life and death to the players, something akin to your own fairytale? Suzy brings along her storybooks featuring magical worlds and fantastic characters for a reason, you heartless, joyless bastards. This is Anderson’s illustrated adventure; a tale flushed with childhood certainties but written with an adult’s care. You used to feel like those kids. Have you forgotten?
Alright, Moonrise Kingdom requires a mental adjustment; you warm to it rather than embrace it and yes, it requires application, like trying to fry an egg with sunshine, and okay, it essentially renounces its claim to film art by evoking the literary as a means of establishing those artistic credentials in a backhanded insult to the cinematic, but despite the mannequin adults and the callous waste of personalities as diverse as Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand and Tilda Swinton (Ed Norton seems himself), something touching crawls into your mouth and lodges in the throat. It’s those damned kids. So earnest, so determined, so old; how could you not root for them? So let’s give Wes Anderson a bit of space, shall we? Remember, if you can meet with realism and surrealism and treat those two impostors just the same, then yours are the movies and everything in them. I’m paraphrasing Emilio Estevez but I think you get the idea.