The Childhood Whimsy of Wes Anderson
Or, how to be young and old at the same time
Moonrise Kingdom is a transition film for Wes Anderson. Not as revolutionary as Dylan going electric or Tom Waits turning into a bone-thumping, demon-voiced carnival barker from hell. But the Wes Anderson everyone discovered and fell in love with (Bottle Rocket through Tenenbaums) hit a bump with The Life Aquatic (a film I have since grown to love). I lamented the loss of Owen Wilson as a writing partner as I thought Anderson’s first three movies had a melancholy world-weariness and emotional insight that you wouldn’t expect from the star of Wedding Crashers. I enjoyed The Darjeeling Limited but thought Anderson was getting too much into style over substance without his college writing buddy to keep him in check. Anderson fans everywhere were wondering how he would follow up Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Then in 2011, I heard about this new film. Moonrise Kingdom turned out to be a departure for Wes, despite simultaneously also being the most Wes Andersony film he’d yet made. I loved this new paradoxical approach he brought to a film set in 1965, yet I was also disappointed in the wasted opportunity to include more of the period rock songs for which Anderson had such great affection. How can he recreate the mid-1960s without the Rolling Stones?
But, the film! It has the feel of a faded photograph from fifty years back. The color palette was so captivating that my fiancée adopted it for the attire of our wedding. In a way, the fashion, the photography, the composition, the style in general are the substance. It has a transportive quality. Not just back to the 1960s, but back to childhood. Not to ignore the story either; young love has never been shown with such clear-eyed wisdom. The rocky beach that earns the film’s title represents the first taste of independence for these children. Freedom from judgment, restrictions and arbitrary rules; they came into their own there, together.
Let’s also pay attention to those first three films I mentioned. Anderson and Wilson paint an intermittently Salinger-esque portrait of worldly, wise youth who occupy their brief collection of years with dignity. As my video essay shows, these small children are big enough to admit when they’re wrong and apologize, as well as give thanks when good things come their way. And in case you were wondering, Max Fischer is indeed a child, but he’s not the star of this video because he is a teenager, and there is a difference.