Where director Sofia Coppola sweeps the title for Indie princess, Wes Anderson, surely lands Indie Prince. By now, I should think both are securely positioned within Hollywood’s grand monarchy. Creating sentiments as powerful as the films themselves. Silent, yet strong. Serious, but always deeply ironic.
I serve both of these directors side by side, not so much as to compare their directing styles, but to illuminate a distinct pattern which emerges within their work. Like all great innovators who set out on a path of their own, it isn’t long before they’re all too aware of their own magic formulas. Hence the danger here, is that we get the same body of work over and over again. Call it an artistic comfort zone.
This is where I find myself getting increasingly frustrated with Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s latest film offering.
A simple enough plot, a precocious young boy and girl fall in love and run away together. It’s set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s. A highly stylised film, with just the right amount of nonchalance invested. Like all Wes Anderson films, the characters care, but not that much. The fashion is conscious, but not overly so. The music is always perfect, a key factor in the films realisation.
The scene where young Suzy and Sam are dancing together on the beach to a Francois Hardy track creates a magnificent moment. Capturing their youthful arrogance perfectly,which goes on to serve as a common theme throughout their journey.
But once you subtract the music, the stylings and isolated destination, what you have left are a cast and storyline you’ve most probably, no, definately, seen before. Most probably in The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited or The Royal Tannenbaums, all films with an intense focus on an unaffected group of misfits. The characters are seeking something beyond their reach, or at times not even sure of what they’re seeking at all. And when delivered by particularly gifted comedians, Bill Murray or Jason Schwartzman, as highlighted in what may be Anderson’s pinnacle, Rushmore, you have a sure fire recipe for smart, smirky success.
The problem with recipes however, are that if not occasionally challenged, they become predictable and somewhat dull for an audience, which tends to happen in Moonrise Kingdom.
Apart from Suzy and Sam’s dedicated love for one another, I don’t feel the other characters serve much in the way of an alternative narrative. As much as I do love him, I’ve seen Bill Murray disaffected more times than I now care to, likewise, Frances McDormand, who returns to the same focused and neurotic mother role we’ve seen her perform, albeit brilliantly, repeatedly.
I leave Moonrise Kingdom feeling uninspired and annoyed. I’ve paid to see a film I’ve already seen before, a few times. Similar characters, similar stylings and as in all his films, the very same actors.
There’s no doubting Wes Anderson’s cultish, creative talent as director/story teller, however I need to fall in love all over again, but this time, with a whole new soundtrack.