Wes Anderson is back! And this means that so is “weirdness”, specifically “human” weirdness as filtered through the gaze of childhood. It’s Anderson’s specialty (if you’ve seen his last six movies) and this one is quite arguably – even quite likely – his best effort yet.
Yes, it’s a coming of age story, and yes, it shows how children are too often victimized by the adults whose wards they are, but mostly it’s about loving the flaws of being human and what those flaws are capable of producing when they collide with other severely flawed and devastated beings. It sounds heavy, I know, but Anderson’s light and whimsical touch makes it bearable. Enjoyable, even.
In this story we have a pair of 12-year-olds, Suzy and Sam, one whose parents are oblivious to her needs and the other an orphan whose only refuge is his always-on-fire imagination. They meet on a made up island called Penzance (methinks this is a nod to the great Joni Mitchell) and end up falling in love the way all great on-screen couples do: hopelessly, helplessly, and instantly. Sam may be a scout in a coonskin cap, but Suzy is his only real point of devotion. She’s just so . . . you know?!
The two lovebirds resolve to save each other from adult torment by running away together . . . in the middle of a hurricane. Luckily and unluckily for them, weather is the least of their concerns.
The “adult” cast comprises some very big names – Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Anderson staple Bill Murray – but the movie belongs in all its idiosyncratic and nostalgia-tinted idealism to Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, the two child actors who play their parts with such unaffected ease and naturalism that you kind of long for them never to grow up.
And that, I assume, is what Anderson was getting at the whole time. It’s rare to get such a treat in the midst of the Summer movie season, but lucky we are to have been gifted such a gem. A must-see.