Look at these pictures. There’s a high probability that they will mean nothing to you. If you were then told that they were stills from a current Hollywood movie and asked to guess what well-known and beloved cult-famous writer/director might be the responsible party for said movie, there is still a high probability that most would not be able to name the person. But for those who would be able to name the cult-hero writer/director just from looking at the color and composition of these photo stills, there is a high probability that a slow moving but palpable excitement would soon start washing over and bubbling within you from the realization that you might be discovering that the man in question, he is a man, has a new movie out. For if you are able to identify his work from a few simple photo stills, compared to most other people — who even if presented with his name wouldn’t feel anything at all except the temporary relief and relaxation caused by the clearance of slight moments of not-knowing something, in this case perhaps a sparse knowledge of one or two of his prior film releases (the ones that hit big in the mainstream (yes even the best of us have one or two of our works hit big in the mainstream once in a while)) — then you know that a new film by HIM, anything by him, even if animated, is more than cause for intoxicated like celebration. For he is brilliant; too young still to label a genius perhaps, but brilliant for sure.
His name is Wes Anderson. His past films include The Royal Tennenbaums, Darjeeling Limited, Rushmore, and the ever popular, always entertaining Life Aquatic with Steve Zisou. The new film we are speaking of is entitled Moonrise Kingdom. From the moment the title credit screen appears it is obvious you have entered the strange and beautiful world that only Wes Anderson can create. Often imitated, but never matched or duplicated in beauty, deadpan wit, dry humor, and as always breathtakingly unique and singular sets and cinematography. Besides some of the most creative writing and character development we’ve ever had the privilege to witness in the making.
Moonrise Kingdom is no different. All the usual character actors are here. From Bill Murray (he’s appeared in every Anderson movie so far) to Jason Schwartzman. Oddly Angelica Houston is missing (she also in every film he’s ever made (we are excluding his first film — Bottle Rocket — because it was made while he was still in film school and was actually a school project). Also longtime collaborators Luke and Owen Wilson are missing as well. But that’s ok. Anderson has added in their place Kate Blanchet’s twin sister Tilda Swinton and Bruce Willis, as well as long missing from action as of late Edward Norton. All and all as usual it’s a stellar cast Wes has assembled. Like Woody Allen one gets the idea that being in a Wes Anderson film is an honor akin to, though probably more artistically satisfying than, receiving an Academy Award. Something you wait in line and/or pray for.
And for good reason. Though his movies lately have become more and more insular and sometimes nearly suffocatingly so, they’re still some of the most special things this side of art. One never knows where a Wes Anderson story is going, in what direction; it is the opposite of big budget Hollywood movie making. It’s cerebral fun and titillating, like one of those giant plastic hamster obstacle courses that humans seem to love more than their pet hamsters, but for the mind heart and spirit.
Moonrise is all that and more. Not as deep or mentally stimulating as The Royal Tennenbaums, nor as psychologically reductionist or far reaching as Life Aquatic or Darjeeling Limited. But that’s more than half it’s charm. It still makes the same statements about the human condition without the drama and pathos. It’s willing and able to drive home the message, Anderson’s apparent general life’s work message, about life as child, adolescent, adult, misfit, oddball and human while having fun with it; something that Darjeeling Limited hinted Anderson may be on the verge of losing for good.
If you’re fan of his work you’ll love the movie. If you’re just a film or art lover and aren’t yet familiar with his work then you just might soon discover what all the fuss is about and feel compelled to host your own private Wes Anderson movie marathon. It will be a task well worth undertaking. It’s not often that we get to witness first hand, in real time, historically great and significant artists complete their life’s great works before our eyes in our own lifetimes. But with Wes Anderson one gets the feeling that that’s exactly what we are having the opportunity to do. A must see for sure.