Re-appreciating Wes Anderson

I have been taking note of early reviews for Moonrise Kingdom because until it opened at Cannes, I had not known that Wes Anderson had a new film coming out. Elbert Ventura’s Reverse Shot review makes a couple of points about Anderson that resonate with me.

Just the release of the Moonrise Kingdom trailer set off impassioned reactions from both sides. In the context of such contentiousness, the movie itself almost feels like a rejoinder to critics—an artist doubling down on the very thing that drives the haters batty. But in the clear light of day, Moonrise Kingdom reveals something else: an artist who could care less about what we think—and who couldn’t do anything about it even if he did.

It is, particularly, the “couldn’t do anything about it even if he did”, that struck me as a new way of seeing Anderson and his body of work. I certainly am not a “hater”, but I had gone from unreservedly looking forward to his films to hoping that maybe he would show me something different, at least in a significant way. I think that The Darjeeling Limited (2007) is a more “mature”, for lack of a better word, version of what Anderson does, and thought, and still think, that is worth acknowledging.

Ventura comes back to this point at the conclusion of the review:

Moonrise Kingdom is the work of an artist who either is oblivious or doesn’t care about his polarizing status. The demand, from even some supporters, was to grow up. Instead, he followed up a stop-motion animation film—the terrific Fantastic Mr. Fox—with a deeply felt tribute to adolescence. (Little did we know that the less successful Life Aquatic and Darjeeling were his stabs at growing up.) Moonrise Kingdom is familiar, there is no question, but Anderson comes by his repetitions honestly—he might not know any other way to make movies. But there is no calculation here; style has not calcified into shtick. This is who he is, and who he’s always been.

As already confessed, I am, or was, in the “grow up” camp, but was also entirely charmed by Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), so much so that I had not given a thought to Anderson returning to any other kind of film until now. Ventura’s final lines, defending Anderson’s work as the reflection of a sincere and deeply rooted aesthetic and set of themes, has refreshed my perspective, and I am looking forward to Moonrise Kingdom in a way that I would not be but for this review.

Read Ventura’s full review: