Wes Anderson's latest film Moonrise Kingdom is just adorable. I've talked before about how the Tenenbaums remind me of Salinger's Glass family and I also think there's something Mitfordish about his films and the families within. There'll be them that just don't like Wes, and that's fine by me, but his films really tickle my fancy.*
Moonrise Kingdom is about Sam and Suzy, a pair of twelve year olds who are in love and run away - Sam from scout camp, Suzy from her home - to be together. It's set in the 1960s, has a brilliant soundtrack and all the trademarks of a Wes film: the obligatory slow motion shot, long tracking shot that shows a bunch of different rooms, Bill Murray, wonderful colours and costumes.
It felt like a really wonderful middle grade novel. The kind that makes your heart swell and pushes your nostalgia buttons, one that's about innocence and creeping towards the end of childhood. The kind of book that would win the Newbery Medal. For in these books it is always the time of love, the time of friends and of adventure!
In the film, Suzy lives in a most spectacular house called Summer's End, which reminded me of a book I read recently...
In Monica Dickens' The House at World's End, Tom, Carrie, Em and Michael have to stay with their rather unwelcoming uncle and aunt, because their mother is in hospital after a beam from their house (as it burned down in the middle of one night) fell on her and broke her back, and their father is sailing round the world in a boat he made himself. However, they soon con their uncle into allowing them to strike out on their own in a tumbledown house in the countryside (at World's End), a house that becomes the most wonderful lawless refuge for the children - and a menagerie of stray animals.
Michael, who was the youngest, came in like a bishop in a long towel bathrobe meant for a man. They had lost everything when their house caught fire, and although their aunt and uncle had bought clothes for them, Valentina's patience had run out before she finished outfitting Michael.
'Excuse me.' He stirred the dog Charlie with a towelled toe. 'She says you must go down to the cellar.' Charlie thumped his tail without opening his eyes. He was a part poodle, part golden retriever, part hearthrug, who liked people better than dogs. 'It is your duty,' Michael told him. That was one of Valentina's favourite sayings.
'It's worst for him,' Carrie said. 'She kicks him under the table.'
'I kick her back,' said Michael. 'That my duty.'
'When we're at school,' Carrie said. 'I think She ties him up, and the cats laugh at him.'
'I don't blame them.' Em always sided with the cats. 'They think he bit through that old electric wire and burned down our house.'
'After the fire...' Carrie said, looking through the wall at nothing. 'Do you remember? There was just the spine of the chimney and bits of burned framework, like ribs, and our rubbish heap. I did a picture at school of the black broken ribs and the tin cans. Miss Peake called it morbid. I called it "After the Fire".
The slightly anarchic family dynamics, the rueful independence, the gloriousness of these childrens' lives - I love it. The same way I love Glenda Millard's perfect and quietly heartwrenching Kingdom of Silk books, Hilary McKay's mad Cassel family (see Michelle Cooper's recent post). Or the Conroy sisters from McKay's The Exiles (I LOVE!), who just love books, but when they're forced to spend a summer at Big Grandma's house they discover the joys of gardening, badger spotting and fishing in a bucket:
All by herself Phoebe had acquired a new hobby. It was her own invention, nobody had helped her, nobody but Phoebe would even have thought of it. You filled a bucket with water, tied a bit of string on the end of a stick, held the stick over the water, and there you were. Fishing in a bucket...The fisher in a bucket can take liberties that conventional fishermen can only dream of. He can stir the water vigorously with his rod and produce no ill effects. He can carry the water to any more convenient site...It is a good hobby, and cheap, and if more people did it more often...
(I've been on a bit of a middle grade kick of late.)
Watch the Moonrise Kingdom trailer:
*The evil sister and I have been trying to list them in order of our favourites, and we have boiled it down to The Darjeeling Limited right up the top, as well as The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore, then Fantastic Mr Fox and The Life Aquatic a little bit below. My sister didn't love Moonrise Kingdom, and she felt that because the film revolved around children that she wasn't able to invest emotionally enough in the story. I think she has an interesting point, though I think she is also wrong.