Moonrise Kingdom is Medicine

Oh Wes, the Fargo lady too? You are spoiling us…

They say say that predictable is dull, unspontaneous, lifeless. But the trajectories and orbits of the planets are predictable, and we still find them hypnotic and beautiful.* 

Wes Anderson’s films are, in many ways, endlessly predictable. You have a feeling you know what you’re letting yourself in for as you settle down in the cinema, and inevitably there it comes: the yellow type (and swathes of yellow costumes and set-pieces), the centre-focus shot, the steady pans across dolls-house sets…A tweaky, plunky soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh and/or Alexandre Desplat…deadpan conversations…and of course the Old Gang (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, do come in!). It’s a conventional enough formula and an unmistakeable visual signature which I am constantly terrified is poised on the verge of plunging into the abyss of over-the-top pointlessness.

But unlike Tim Burton, whose visual signature started as a charming stylistic quirk and quickly festered into a furious and aggressive eyeball-punching of spirals, purple and black, pale faces and Helena Bunsen-Burner, Wes Anderson still manages to avoid the abyss every time. His quirks and motifs are as recognisable as a familiar mole on your grandma’s chin, but, like the mole, you love them for being there and would miss them if they were gone, even the unsettling long black hair in the middle. Let’s face it, Moonrise Kingdom did not even sound hugely promising: the title is reminiscent of a Manga Nintendo 64 game and the premise of two kids running away from home threatens bucketloads of sentimental twee. But it worked, and I spent the entire time beaming at the screen like a mesmerised baby.

*They say that foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum. But it’s cool to the paw; try it.

I think the thing that makes Wes’ films work is that they never sacrifice anything at the expense of having a rock-solid cast and script to work with (something which Tim Burton might fancy splashing out on sometime). The cast tends to be the same old regulars, sure, but they are all also incredibly – often startlingly – good at acting. I needn’t even mention Bill Murray because we all know he is Touched By Greatness, but give Owen Wilson a part that isn’t a weed-smoking surf-fart and he can be hilarious, tragic and very unexpectedly subtle. A new one is Bruce Willis, who turns out to be terrific when not holding a gun or…well, firing a gun. I do slightly despair sometimes when Wes Anderson insists on showing us the aged and softened faces of the people who in my mind’s eye have always been running around saving an alien goddess, reexperiencing the same day in increasingly hilarious ways or sobbing into the vast bosoms of an obese man (Ed Norton was brilliant, by the way). But these people are all so brilliant at what they do that you are glad to see them carrying on, being excellent and skilled in possession of their new personae rather than becoming ‘go-to old person #3’ (and I do sympathise, Julie Walters).

The story alone is glorious too. Yes, two kids run away, but one of them’s a scout so there’s an old-fashioned Just William style knockabout feel to the whole thing, while the side story of the crazy parents trying to find them is sweet and funny and sad in a different way. And I defy anyone to be too sceptical about the sight of a bunch of kids just going a bit feral for the length of a film anyway; it worked for Son of Rambow and proves that all you have to do for real cinema gold is put a few young boys in the wilderness holding sticks. You’ll get the granny vote with that approach at the very least and the tickets sales from that alone will see you through the winter.

And what’s more – the film’s just fun. It’s not trying to be anything but fun. It’s a proper, real adventure story where things happen and there is real peril and unrealistic events occur which you forgive because you’re sucked in by that point already. And isn’t that what you want from summer cinema rather than a typical, dragging girly film about the embittered single lady or anoooottthhherr superhero film which is so laden with CGI it looks like it’s been made with clips from The Sims? I want a film that is ginger beer and barbeque, not cocktails and olives or nachos and PepsiMax. 

I love Wes Anderson and I’m not ashamed to say it. Some of you will find him annoying and akin to staring at a cross-stitch of a wishing well for two hours. But loving Wes Anderson is nothing to be ashamed of, if you know what you like and know you will like what you expect; he delivers, and it’s not boring or predictable, but like the classic lasagne that your mum always makes it still always manages to be gosh-darn delicious. 
 

Rose T

Jill of all trades: writer, illustrator, designer, editor, web designer, craft maniac

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