Whimsical Gallantry

‘Moonrise Kingdom’

Up to now, watching a Wes Anderson movie was like entering a playground and discovering that the sandbox, the teeter-totters, and all the swings were being hogged by adults. Just 10 minutes of Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, or Fantastic Mr. Fox can convince you that this writer-director isn’t just original but downright precious in both the good and bad senses of the word. Reaching for a childlike freshness, Anderson has created a world American in setting but really existing on no map and nestling in a hidey-hole away from the onrush of history. (By using the word “hidey-hole,” I’ve stumbled into Andersonspeak.) The difference between this director and even the most independent-minded of his cinematic contemporaries becomes clear when you see Richard Linklater’s current (and excellent) Bernie, which portrays an extremely eccentric hero through a measured, mainstream sensibility. In Anderson movies, eccentric stories are eccentrically told.

Consider some of the situations. In Bottle Rocket two youths rob stores at gunpoint—not for money, not to defy society, but to prolong their childhood friendship. The patriarch of The Royal Tenenbaums tries to teach his grandchildren the value of nonconformity by urging them to cavort in the midst of Manhattan traffic. A millionaire businessman in Rushmore, enamored of a...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.