The consensus on director Wes Anderson seems to be you either love him or hate him. So am I the only one that has mixed feelings about his movies? Overall, I really liked "Rushmore", "the Royal Tenenbaums" and "the Darjeeling Limited". I thought "the Life Aquatic" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" were kind of boring (although I didn't hate them) and I admit I've never seen "Bottle Rocket."
I do like how he's able to create a very specific tone in all his films. I love his choice of actors, music and production design and more often than not I find his narrated fables disarming. But his films do at times tip over into preciousness and you can almost hear everyone involved giving themselves pats on the back for how clever and quirky they are.
This doesn't stop me from liking his films, but it does stop me from tipping over into the "love" column. Case in point is his newest film, "Moonrise Kingdom." Set in 1965 on a (I presume) fictional island off the New England coast, the film recounts the story of two 12 year-olds, Sam, an orphan scout camping on the island, and Suzy, the alienated daughter of two island residents, who decide to run off together. Various factions then band together to look for them, including Suzy's parents, the local cop, the scout master and his troop, Social Services, and pretty much anyone else who appears in the film.
Even more than most of Anderson's films, we are fairy-tale territory here. Whereas "the Royal Tenenbaums" and "the Darjeeling Limited" seemed to have at least a toe in reality, "Moonrise Kingdom" doesn't pretend to resemble any real place or have its characters speak or act like actual people do. (In fact the film makes a point of how much Suzy, and later Sam and all the other scouts, like made-up stories with magical elements).
For whatever reason, it took me a good 20 minutes of the film to finally cotton on to this fact. Which meant I spent the first 20 minutes of the film feeling like rolling my eyes, and the last hour and ten or so enjoying it. I almost wish the movie had been marketed as a family film as it would have given me a better idea what to expect (and I think my 10 year-old daughter would have liked it too, although parents beware there is some light petting and some off-screen violence).
Particularly effective was the relationship between Sam and Suzy, both loners with anger issues who truly seem to be each others' soul mates. The young actors fit perfectly into Anderson universe, and the film also features a nice low-key performance from Bruce Willis as the sad-sack island cop who proves to be much more heroic than he first appears.