I went to see “Moonrise Kingdom” by myself this week because there was no one in my life I could trust to see it with me.
I didn't want to hear anyone roll their eyes.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is the latest film by writer/director Wes Anderson (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums”), and if you move quickly, you can probably catch it at Film Streams.
I loved it. But I have to warn you that you might hate it. Those are your choices, love or hate; I don't think anyone walks out of a Wes Anderson movie, saying, “I guess that was okay ...”
The polarizing issue seems to be that Anderson's movies are fake.
Really. Fake. There's nothing lifelike about anything happening on screen ...
Characters behave strangely, speak in stilted rhythms. They even move strangely, more like jerky marionettes sometimes than human beings — holding poses too long, then flapping into action.
Nothing looks quite right in a Wes Anderson movie.
Or maybe I should say that everything looks too right. Unnaturally right. Like even the landscapes are designed, and nothing gets to be the color that it just is.
The sky isn't sky-colored. Skin isn't skin-colored. People dress to match their living rooms.
In fact, there aren't really colors in Anderson's movies; there are palettes. There are choices.
Everything you see on screen is a choice. Every stitch and every button. Every prop. Every breath.
There is so much design and control, it feels sometimes like you're watching an animated movie. (Which might be why Anderson's stop-motion “Fantastic Mr. Fox” didn't feel like much of a departure.)
For some people, all of this construction is intolerable. It's bloodless, airless, suffocating ... Precious, affected. Twee. Smug.
And I can understand why they feel that way, why they say the typefaces in Wes Anderson movies should be billed higher than the actors.
But all of those choices — all of Anderson's fakeness — are what make me love his movies, especially the experience of watching them.
(The experience. Other movies are good for the laughs or the stories, but Wes Anderson movies are about the two hours you spend in his head.) For me, our world — this one, the one we're living in — is a chaotic, ugly place.
I know that it's also a chaotic, beautiful place. But the chaos tends to get to me more than the beauty.
The art that makes me happy is art that frames our world, that settles and controls it, so I can look it in the eye without going blind.
My favorite art gives life a melody I can follow.
I feel better — my brain feels better — when I'm watching a movie or reading a book or sitting in a room, and I feel like someone has thought through every aspect ...
When I'm watching a Wes Anderson movie, my brain practically curls up and purrs.
I feel like he's on top of every detail, and like he understands that these details aren't surface effects; they're a part of the story.
Other stylists — Tim Burton, for me, and Martin Scorsese with “Hugo” — will let you down, putting beauty and aesthetic wildly ahead of story.
But it's impossible to separate the visual details in “Moonrise Kingdom” from the plot. They're all of a piece. All part of the same tightly controlled trip that Anderson is taking you on.
Though the love story didn't quite work for me in “Moonrise Kingdom” — 12 year olds, love at first sight, dancing on the beach — almost everything else did, especially the different types of family dynamics. (Now I want to be a Khaki Scout.) The movie might not have blood or air, but it has real heart.
Fake, yes. But not false.
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