He has a specific aesthetic that’s recognizable by his precise camera movements, consistent use of primary colors and a devotion to early folk and rock music that informs the themes he's exploring in each of his films. All of his pictures touch on the subjects of dysfunctional families, arrested development and love that's only understood by those enthralled in it. His latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, takes those themes and mashes them up into a beautiful greatest hits reel.
It's wrong to assume that because Wes Anderson's films are so stylistically similar that he's only interested in the production design and the aesthetic of his films. To the contrary, his characters are always the highlight of his films. Rushmore might have looked cool, but Jason Schwartzman's Max Fischer was the heart and soul of the movie.
The story is set on a tiny island off the New England coast in 1965. Sam and Susie are two violent and strange 12-year olds who fall in love at first sight and decide to run away together. They go into the woods together, content to block out the rest of the world and just exist for each other as they fish, camp and listen to records.
Obviously, this doesn't sit too well with Sam's worried scout leader or Susie's less-worried parents, who embark on an island wide manhunt for the kids. This simple set-up carries the entire film. So instead of a convoluted story, we can just enjoy every minute spent with one of the finest cast of characters in years.
Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are wonderful as Sam and Susie. The relationship they build throughout the film is lovely and, even though the story takes place in the '60's, there's such a nostalgic truth to the way Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola approach first love, that everyone should find something to connect to.
Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban and Jason Schwartzman all gave great performances devoid of ego. Murray is working in his Rushmore\Life Aquatic comfort zone, but that zone is pretty hard to tire of. Watching him and McDormand play miserable, married lawyers is a joy. If they are the id and ego of the film, then Willis is its heart and Norton is its soul. Norton hasn't been this much fun since Death to Smoochy and his khaki scout leader is the breakout character of the movie. Willis is astounding as the local police captain leading the search for the kids. This is Unbreakable Willis we're watching here and his ability to portray so much sadness just through his eyes is incredible.
Wes Anderson might have a very specific eye that not everyone appreciates, but he also has a giant heart filled with love for each of his flawed creations. Moonrise Kingdom is weird, wonderful, sublime, heartbreaking and romantic, sometimes in the space of one scene. More than that, it's a pure piece of American art that will someday be mentioned in the same sentence as Harold and Maude and The Graduate as some of the finest romances of all time. Wes Anderson is a national treasure and we're lucky to have him.
Starring Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
Directed by Wes Anderson.