It’s been five years since Wes Anderson’s last live-action movie, and at no other time has his legacy and influence been so apparent than during his absence. The likes of Richard Ayoade’s Submarine attempted to grapple with the sartorial significance of coming-of-age, and the likes of Diablo Cody and Anderson’s own partner-in-crime, Noah Baumbach, have taken up the mantle of quotable angst and deadpan introspection, respectively. But no one creates these capsule worlds quite like the man himself, and with Moonrise Kingdom the inimitable Austin native has not only crafted another gorgeously symmetrical snowglobe, but has finally imbued the picture with that elusive ingredient those who throw up their hands at his perceived pointless navel gazing have always accused him of ignoring – warmth.
Self-confessed to be his most personal picture, this semi-autobiographical exploration of adorably innocent, pre-pubescent summer love still has much in common with his prior output: the flat, portrait composition, the preoccupation with wardrobe choices, absent or distant fathers, and bearded men in beanie hats posing in front of thematically suggestive monuments to their joyless, obsessive idiosyncrasies. Yet at it’s core, in amongst the now trademark breezy décor, is the sweetly-sincere romance of precocious pre-teens, Sam and Suzy (newcomer Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). Their efforts to abscond to a life of forbidden romance in a tiny tent, living on a diet of fish and crackers, throws a tiny island community into chaos, with a frantic search and rescue effort complicated by incompetent scout-mastering, failing marriages, and an impending, violent storm front.
Anderson’s colorfully quirky aesthetic has always been oddball, and either fascinating or infuriating depending on one’s taste. Yet even those who found themselves endeared to his indelible troupe of misfits and misanthropes would have to concede that his characters – intriguing as they are – are entirely impenetrable. Developmentally delayed somewhere just beyond the first moment their unbridled ambition felt that crushing hammer blow of inevitable disappointment they remain, cocooned in amber and coldly unrelatable. Here he has anchored his sensibilities to a transcendent, nostalgic yearning for rustic foraging against a perennial autumnal backdrop, where getting dressed meant putting on your coonskin cap before your shirt, and the weight of a decision was measured by whether or not it had been given serious enough consideration to be talked about over by the trampoline.
As is typical with Anderson, the casting is bold and beautifully against type. Regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are present once again, but it’s the newcomers that shine brightest. Ed Norton’s naively trusting scout leader perpetuates a sincerity that extends to Francis McDormand’s melancholic, megaphone-wielding lawyer, clinging to the last vestiges of a sinking marriage with Murray. Bruce Willis might be coasting on former glories these days, but when his career retrospectives are written it is perfectly-weighted performances the likes of this, the noble sheriff tasked with carrying out the dastardly orders of the devilish Social Services – made flesh here by Tilda Swinton’s finest Cruella Deville impersonation – that will be poured over, more so than any amount of cynical pay-checking in G.I. Joe sequels.