Sumptuously kooky, engaging characters and a sweet story make for a true feat of a barnstorming fun and wild adventure in this Wes Anderson film. Two stand out roles by debut actors help further the awesome sense of this movie achieving something special and with the style and substance of this story you’re swept along into a glorious tale of young love, eccentricity and empowering breaks for freedom.
This typically Anderson hallmarked movie tells the story of a young Khaki scout called Sam (Jared Gilman) leaving his camp to try and run away with a girl he fancies. Suzy (Kara Hayward) and he have been pen pals and worked out a plan but as news of their disappearance breaks the entire scout troop led by Randy Ward (Edward Norton) set out to find them, a policeman named Duffy Sharp (Bruce Willis) also attempts to do his job while balancing some side tension with Suzy’s mother. The backstory of Sam inevitably comes out and this calls for the arrival of another figure of authority leading the loved up kids to try and get away one more time during the setting of a huge storm.
The writing and directing of this movie is fantastic. Full stop. It just is. Anderson creates a believable yet surreal landscape for his characters to run amok in and this island representation looks stylistic and odd but still holds that sliver or reality that makes you invest into what is happening. The screenplay itself helps the direction immensely as the dialogue and scenes are quick paced and stuffed full of fun lines or events that help the film snap along with pace and runaway speed, a fitting way to shoot as it mirrors the two runaways themselves. The language and delivery by all involved heightens the sense of manic eccentric life and it’s funny too. As with Anderson films there’s more to the plot than outrageous circus like goings on. There’s notes of bittersweet pubescent progression as Sam and Suzy fall in love, there’s touches of sadness and loneliness as the relationship of Suzy’s mum and dad (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) is looked upon. The fantastical element of imagination, running away in general and wanting superpowers to be different and escape is thrown into the mix also. The creativity of the made up books that Suzy reads and the fake maps of the island all add to this make believe world that somehow is believable and that is down to the hugely well developed characters of Suzy and Sam.
The score is brimming with sounds that influence the arty and kooky nature of this film. The Benjamin Britten use and the breaking apart of the orchestral company by children fits with the child wonder of this movie. Alexandre Desplat composes a score that captures the imagination felt by the two fleeing characters and it stirs some fun bubbling backing track to the piece. Overall the music really does make the film more than what it may have been as it whirs the action up and makes the film feel like it’s going along with quickening time. That’s no bad thing, the sense of speed works for this story as it’s such a wonky frenetic adventure that it needs that push.
The acting by every cast member in involved is pretty perfect and that’s why they seem to be Anderson staples on the most part. The show is completely stolen by the newcomers to the party though and they sell the roles they are given with tremendous effect. Gilman carries that confident assurance of Sam the scout that is needed and his commentaries and explanations of how to survive are so said as if an adult is saying it, there is that sense in both of them that they know and act much wiser/older than they are to get by. Hayward manages to convey the destructive wild child well and there’s something in her eyes that does that. You just believe she’s this lost child causing problems wherever she goes but when they’re together they’re whole and it fits right. They are great opposite one another and their elevating love story is at once lovely and also strange but that concoction of emotions helps give the relationship more depth.
There’s so much more I want and could talk about but I don’t feel like writing up an essay and I don’t think you’d want to read it either but the whole thing to me is a masterpiece, only let down by some insane extra doses of wild out there moments, i.e the lightning strike. Altogether though this movie holds up as an example of how films can be different and much much better. The way it looks and sounds, the cast, the style and sweeping tracking movements of the camera to reveal locations, it all falls together to form a perfect if not crazy eccentric beautiful puzzle.
A great glimpse through binoculars at the growings of children and the fantasy world they explore and enjoy detailed by Anderson in a fantasy way. It’s a film that feels like a plaything, a fun yet sweet journey that takes your heart with it every step of the way.