I’ve been living in a Wes Anderson world lately. I rewatched Life Aquatic a few times for another project. By chance, caught The Darjeeling Limited on cable. I always keep The Royal Tenebaums and Rusmore in rotation and most recently viewed Grand Budapest again. Something struck me that I never actually wrote anything down on Moonrise Kingdom. I went on my Letterboxd account and sure enough. Nothing. So here’s some thoughts on it.
Wes Anderson makes his own version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and sets it within the world of childhood angst: the orphaned Sam Shakusky and similarly introverted Suzy Bishop are in love; but the society around them forbids this romance. Set on an isolated island within New England otherwise known as New Penzance (made up world) – the setting alone gives an idea of what sort of state of life they are living within. They want a place away from others, in order to find themselves living at peace, because the world that they know has no other place for them. But it’s the perfect setup for Wes Anderson to use the quirk that we’ve all come to expect from his work, although in Moonrise Kingdom it has come to a point where it reflects feeling: among the most vital aspects to the success of Anderson’s output. It’s a quirky rom-com spin on Romeo and Juliet with kids he’s telling here, but the very experience provided is nothing short of rewarding.
Going back to the running theme of isolation in Moonrise Kingdom, there’s a greater success coming out on Wes Anderson’s end when it comes to how he captures the general awkwardness coming in regards to the feeling of being in love. The central romance in Moonrise Kingdom is indeed some of the most touching that Anderson has ever been able to achieve in his career, but at the same time we recognize there’s something so awkward about how it comes out at the hands of Anderson’s trademark quirkiness. It’s actually something rather beautiful because of this quirk, because it reflects upon the uncertainty of romance especially at a younger age: and Sam and Suzy are only discovering that feeling for the first time. They’re naive and innocent, and Anderson tells a story within this boundary in order to form a work that makes this awkwardness something more touching, because of the uncertainty regarding where their romance is set to go.
Typical of a Wes Anderson film there’s something more coming about from his usage of music in order to highlight a mood. Whether it be from Alexandre Desplat’s wonderful score or the use of Françoise Hardy’s “Le temps de l’amour” – it’s always wonderful just looking back upon how they also play in part with the quirkiness as a means of reflecting a certain mood for his films.
By nature, Moonrise Kingdom would be seen as a romantic comedy dealing with the innocence of childhood but when we see Sam and Suzy dancing to Françoise Hardy, there’s a reflection of their naivete at the state of their own freedom: at the time of love. And yet it’s so distinctively bizarre almost like a painting by the way it looks, though this only reflects the awkwardness of the first encounter even more perfectly in order to create something more melancholy deep down, just as the best of Wes Anderson would deliver.
This sort of experiment for Wes Anderson only signifies something more coming in marriage with all the quirkiness that anyone would come to recognize him for. At another point this quirkiness even manages to ring true, because of how it captures the general awkwardness and uncertainty of the naive impressions that love would bring upon first try. That’s the beauty of what comes from what could easily have been just another innocent romantic comedy about children finding love for the first time. But, Anderson actually goes beyond that and subverts it into something more playful and melancholy just like a memory of this point in one’s life would be.
With Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson has managed to inspire smiles just as he also captures a feeling of escape from authority – he isn’t making an innocent romantic comedy. He’s making a film about the effect of authority upon innocence, and the results are visually stunning and infinitely thought provoking.