Last night, I attended the North American premiere of “Moonrise Kingdom”, Wes Anderson’s new film that’s being feted at Cannes as we speak. And after all the hype, after the bar was set so high… well, he cleared it.
This is Wes Anderson doing Wes Anderson. Literally. There is so much self-indulgent masturbatory Wes Anderson going on I was fairly surprised that the film didn’t end with a splash of white sticky stuff on my face. But then again, if Wes Anderson held up his middle finger and yelled “fuck you” in a way that was quirky and funny and precocious and mildly pretentious I would still eat it up because it’s Wes Anderson doing quirky, funny, precocious and mildly pretentious. That’s Wes Anderson, and that was this movie, and it was damn beautiful and well-done.
I won’t spoil the plot for you, but suffice it to say that there are many d’aww moments and a lot of really hilarious moments as well (Wes generally sticks to LQTM humor, but here I was full-on LOLing at times). 12-year-olds Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward have one of the greatest scenes ever (literally ever, in-the-history-of-film-ever) on the beach pictured above after they, well…I can’t spoil it. But when you see it, if you know me (and/or if you dated me when I was 12), you’ll know.
The cinematography, by Robert Yeoman, is impressively OCD–almost every shot is so well-centered and/or symmetrical, it was absolutely a joy just to see how each shot is composed. The colors of the film stand out, every scene has a distinct mood. It’s a beautiful film, in every sense of the word.
The music is also amazing, from veteran Alexandre Desplat (stick around for a wonderful easter egg in the end credits), and the editing is, as usual, top-notch.
The adult actors are, as usual, wonderful, if a little underutilized–Jason Schwartzman again steals the show (as usual)–with Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand–in addition to the kid actors, who are surprisingly not annoying as hell and actually, in the case of the leads, do a brilliant job underplaying–all play superbly with the material they have. Sadly, the brilliant Tilda Swinton is relegated to a small role that brings to mind only Dolores Umbridge.
The screenplay is typical Anderson/Coppola, brilliant and articulate and whimsically arcane but specifically tuned to the Anderson/Coppola audience.
My one beef with Wes Anderson is minor, but it’s what prevents me from rating this film 5 stars, and believing he is the best filmmaker of our time. He is, as Edward Norton has stated, “a true modern auteur”, with his own distinct style and appeal. His characters, his settings, his rhythm are distinctly Wes–both realistic and incredibly unrealistic–stylized and simultaneously emotionally resonant. However, in creating that contradiction in his universe, he manages to generate doublethink-esque attitudes toward his situations in his audience, which, being Wes Anderson’s audience, is braced for such complexity. However, if this film were to be exposed to the mainstream, it’s quite likely it could be interpreted in destructive ways. The film portrays love (and relationships and extramarital affairs) as easy to achieve, as easy to navigate, as easily manipulable with a sense of idealistic simplicity–the film starts and ends with all the major characters in happy relationships (save for one on each end)–and as much as I wish life was like that, it really isn’t, and the way Anderson blends impish whimsicality with an acute sense of emotional realism, it could give off the false sense to the immature watcher that, well, it is. But I digress. This film is a perfect example of why Wes’s style doesn’t cross over, and why I almost don’t want it to. However, I’d assume that if the film did cross over, its success would likely not be propelled by immature watchers…at least I’d hope not.
I’d like the film to be a crossover hit, but I wouldn’t give it great odds. In the meantime, I’ll just adore its glorious cuteness forever.