Wes Anderson is a hack of the best possible kind. The American indie auteur director, beloved for films like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr. Fox, has a new film out soon, and while it feels in many ways like a rearrangement of his other works, it is brilliant and beautiful in its own right.
Moonrise Kingdom stars Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, alongside Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis and a wonderfully-cast bunch of 12-year-olds, and focuses on an innocent yet turbulent love affair between a pair of young adolescents. For anyone who has seen Anderson’s other films, the music, cinematography and dialogue will all seem uncannily familiar–kitschy 1960s kids’ albums played on portable record players, perfectly-composed slightly off-kilter shots and ridiculous lines delivered with deadpan earnestness. Anderson is many things, but aesthetically versatile is clearly not one of them.
Nonetheless, the young lovers’ troubled tale feels heartfelt and true, while the film built around it explores coming of age and entering the world of adults with equal parts whimsy and pathos. These explorations will also be familiar–Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums explored similar issues of young forbidden love and the rift between childhood innocence and adult malaise–and indeed, Bill Murray’s character is cut from the same red wine-stained motley as his other unhappy clown roles of the last few years. To some this may seem lazy, a simple re-hashing of old tropes and techniques to tell a barely different story, but as visually, emotionally and sonically rich as Moonrise Kingdom is, there is much to be discovered and enjoyed both on the surface and below it. And at the very least, it’s an opportunity to see a brilliant director do what he does best, yet again.