Wes Anderson makes quirky movies. He also makes movies that look beautiful. More often than not he brings out the most in his actors' performances. His latest effort, Moonrise Kingdom, has all of these characteristics and more. But like so many of his previous projects, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums chief among them, this piece has moments of genius and pure fun. But like those films, and most of his others, the end result is goodness, not greatness.
Is he revered now for his quirkiness? For his allegiance to lovable characters like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman? It's not the films, right?
Newcomers Jared Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy) play star crossed lovers circa 1965 New England. He, an orphan Khaki Scout on the run from his troop. She, a misunderstood rebel from significant means on the run from her lost attorney folks (Murray and Frances McDormand.).
That's about it. 12 year old runaways and the hapless adults trying to make sense of it, all the while coming to the realization that, "Hey, maybe these kids are the ones who have it together... And we don't!?"
Romeo and Juliet set in summer camp. A geeks version of Rebel Without a Cause. An ode to innocence and simpler times. Whatever you label it after a bit it feels a touch familiar. And when the dust settles, a rather pedestrian movie.
Does Anderson have a deft touch in terms of production design? Without question. The set pieces, overall look and jump cuts are his hallmarks. Here they are all wonderfully displayed.
Anderson casts a movie quite well too. Bruce Willis has not been this good since Butch from Pulp Fiction. Here he is the hapless cop trying to make sense of his pathetic life. The two leads are pitch perfect as the mismatched couple. Gilman could have been typecast with his bold glasses and meek lisp. But he plays Sam so well you can see the young man inside and understand why Suzy finds him compelling. Hayward, a little Lana Del Rey look a like, captures the angst ridden pre teen pretty darn good herself. Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton can read TV Guide and make it compelling. And Murray and Schwartzman... well, you know what you are getting there. Which could be the problem too. These guys have all worked together so much you sometimes feel like your peeking in on an inside joke.
This time it isn't as funny. And the heart warming moments are too few, and too far between. Since when did 94 minutes feel so slow?
This film will appear on many Best of 2012 lists later this year. Hollywood will lavish praise on the indie darling. So different! So original!
Sure, if everything else in the multiplex is a retread or superhero story. There are still folks out there who like storytelling and period pieces. But just because you
tell a story and set it in a different era that does not automatically make it brilliant.
Save your time and watch Anderson's only real masterpiece, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Otherwise his ego is going to get big enough to green light a Life Aquatic sequel.