I will absolutely go see Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s new movie about a New England summer camp set in 1965, both because the goodwill that Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums garnered have yet to die, and because the movie reminds me of novels like Edward Eager’s stories of magic or Elizabeth Enright’s books about precocious young children creating their own worlds:
Anderson’s movies, for me, have always been about the gap between the worlds that privileged people want to build for themselves to live in and their ability, whether psychologically or materially, to maintain those worlds. The gap between Max Fischer’s attempts to build a paradise for himself at his private school in Rushmore and the reality of his grades and his status at the school, especially given his lies about his sexual success and the fact that his father is a barber, was evident almost from the beginning of the film. The Royal Tenenbaums is about the compromises made by ever single member of a privileged New York family over a short period that forces their reconciliations and reckonings. They’re both movies in relatively realistic broad settings that are made surreal by the way their main characters approach them.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, about an arrogant oceanographic explorer, follows the same themes, but less successfully. Whereas in previous movies, Anderson’s heroes like Fischer or Royal Tenenbaum are forced to let go of the women they’ve become fixated on, and become better men for the adjustment of their self-images to more realistic proportions, Steve Zissou sacrifices the son he abandoned and then treated callously and gets his wife back anyway. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fundamentally different kind of movie, an adaptation of a children’s book, the kind of literature that encourages children to dream beyond their capacities so they’ll grow, and that gets followed by the kind of literature that involves reconciliation to reality and limitation.
Moonrise Kingdom looks like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox in that it involves an inherently precious setting, rather than a relatively mundane one that privileged people are trying to elevate because it doesn’t feel special enough to them. And it’s definitely a story about children as much as it is about adults. Beyond that, I’ll be curious to see how it turns out. Anderson can be alternately tough and soft on spoiled people (sometimes he’s able to be hard on even his flakiest characters because he has so much affection for his them). I think one of the reasons I’m still so interested in his career is because it’s still not clear where he stands on his selfish, self-made creations.