Last night, impromptu, I had myself a little date-night at the Kabuki Theater in Japantown. And what’s better for a date-night movie than the new Wes Anderson film, still in limited release? It’s positively quintessential! Now, I don’t like to review new movies here ar yr an adult, because there are already so many great places for quality new-release reviews, but I do like to the rundown all the weird, ADD-thoughts that run through my head when I’m watching a film in the theater. I will say that I liked the movie, as I like almost all Wes Anderson movies, and that I agree with the reviews that say this is one of his best. I mean, he makes beautifully framed, nostalgic, funny films about the loneliness of growing up. That shit is obviously right up my alley. So I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts, and I hope you see the movie. Also, fear not spoilerphobes. There will be no spoilers.
The crowd for a Wes Anderson movie at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco is the most stereotypically Wes Anderson crowd in the whole world. The Kabuki is one my favorite movie theaters. It’s an expensively designed, Sundance-branded cinema that plays a mix of art films and blockbusters, you reserve your seat online in advance, they sell microbrews at a reasonable price and the affable guy who checks your id name-checks a movie that came out the year you were born (i.e. “1982, I saw Fast Times at Ridgemont High that year). The average age of the audience member was 27 years old. Everyone was either dressed like a tech person trying to dress like a creative or an actual creative trying to dress like a creative (read: skinny jeans, thoughtful sneakers, “cool” t-shirt/jacket combos, angular haircuts, etc…). It was a profoundly white, SF-crowd, filled with exactly who you’d imagine goes to see Wes Anderson movies in the theaters.
If the rest of America’s movie theaters/audiences looked like this, Hollywood would make waaaay better movies. Not to shit on Americans, who I love, or big-budget-high-concept-blockbuster-franchises, which I’ve gone on the record as loving, but I’m just saying, if audiences were smarter and went to the movies more often, Hollywood would make money making films for grownups, so, they would do it more often. And that would be great.
I really hope kids get to see this movie. This movie is mostly being marketed to people who already like Wes Anderson movies (read: grownups, hipsters and film geeks). But the protagonists, Sam and Suzy, are great and remind me of the best characters in childrens literature. Kids wouldn’t necessarily get the nuances of the humor or esotericism of Moonrise Kingdom, but I think they’d identify with the kids and enjoy the subtle slapstick and the running-away-from home adventure. It’s better than pretty much anything else made for kids, this side of Pixar.
Running away from home is way better in the movies. My brother and I ran away from home once, when I was seven and he was ten. After going maybe a mile, my brother decided I was going too slow for him, so he ran away from me (we was/is pretty severely learning disabled, so I can’t totally blame him for being a shitty brother in that situation. No, wait. I totally can). I cried in front of a market until some adult stopped and asked me what happened, so I told them my parents forgot me at the market. They took me home, ready to yell at my folks, who then told them that I’d actually run away, and the good samaritans looked at me like a little jerk. (My brother was picked up later by the police). Anyways, it was way less whimsical than when Sam and Suzy run away in Moonrise Kingdom.
Hating Wes Anderson movies is like hating the Beatles. If you were to tell me you hate Wes Anderson movies, I would immediately think that you’re just being obnoxiously counter-narrative, because deep down, you’re an asshole. I can get not loving Wes Anderson movies or finding some of the quirks annoying. But hate? Come. On. The real reason people knee-jerk think they don’t like Wes Anderson movies is because there aren’t enough filmmakers like him. I don’t mean that there aren’t enough filmmakers making twee, nostalgic, retro, meticulously-framed, whimsical comedies. I think one is enough. The problem is that very few filmmakers have their own stylistic and thematic (I apologize in advance for using the word “oeuvre”) oeuvre in the way Anderson does. If more directors had the audience/budgets to do their own thing over and over again, the fact that Anderson gets to wouldn’t rub some people the wrong way.
Very few of the skills I learned at camp stuck with me. But some of the lessons did. A big part of the film highlights all the survival skills Sam and the rest of the Khaki Scouts learned at camp. I went to camp. A lot. My parents were eager to get rid of me for large swaths of the summer. Here are a few things I learned how to do at the time but have since forgotten:
- How to tie knots.
- How to sail. I spent a month living on a boat with 12 other kids, learning how to sail. I retain nothing.
- How to shit in the woods. Not sure how I could forget how to do this, but I forgot.
- How to shoot bow and arrows.
- How to shoot guns.
- How to wood work.
- How to start a fire from nothing.
I did learn a lot of important life lessons from camp, which will hopefully inspire another post at some point, but here are a few highlights:
- If you tell the guy who runs the camp you hate the camp’s food, he’s going to think you’re a little shit.
- If you’re mean to a girl who says she likes you, she’s going to think you’re a little shit.
- Just because you’re able to convince all the kids at one camp that you’re cool, that doesn’t carry over to the next camp. Or, sadly, to middle school.
- If you get poop all over your pants one year, kids are going to remember next year.
Wes Anderson movies work better when the leads aren’t recognizable. Part of the reason, I think, that the train movie and The Life Aquatic weren’t as great as Bottle Rocket or Rushmore was the fact that leads were too recognizable from other Anderson films (and from just being celebrities). The fact that these child actor are unrecognizable helped me lose myself a little more in their story. This is a problem I have with a lot of movies, but especially with Anderson, who has only a handful of character types and story arcs he really likes to write for. Seeing unknowns in the main roles was a welcome shift.
What’s going to happen to these kids? I certainly wondered about that about the characters at the end of the movie. But the kids who played Sam and Suzy, as well as all the other great kids in the Khaki Scouts, some of them will certainly go on to great acting careers. Jason Schwartzman has ate off of Max Fisher ever since Rushmore. I couldn’t certainly see that happening for young Jared Gilman or Kara Hayward and many of the others.
Again, I think about all kinds of shit during movies. Would Ritalin help?
 If you’re looking for how I rank all of Wes Anderson’s movies, here’s my list, in descending order: Tied for 1st place, Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums; 4th place – Moonrise Kingdom (early ranking, but I think that will stand); 5th place – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: 6th place – The one with the train.
Henry Goldman is founder of yr an adult. His life is pretty much like a Wes Anderson movie, except without the awesome sets, clothes or sense of whimsy.