There’s something you have to know about Wes Anderson’s movies before we get too far into this – his style is verbose. Not a little. A lot. Like, so incredibly much. It’s part of the reason that his films will NEVER have mainstream acceptance. You have to have a lot of patience for weird shots, weird cuts, and his strange style in order to enjoy his films. It’s not easy. Some are easier than others. This film is one of those that is less so. But if you can stick with it, this is one of those movies that only Wes Anderson can do, and he does it so well. It is extreme style over substance, but for what it is, I did enjoy this quite a bit.
The plot (such as it is) follows the misadventures of Sam and Suzy. Two kids who are both weird in that way that only a Wes Anderson film can be. Sam is an orphan who has nowhere to go. Suzy is a girl with her own quirks. They run away together and the film tells their story. I would say more, but the reality is that there isn’t more to the plot than that. As I said, style over substance. In the extreme. Doing reviews of this guy’s movies is difficult.
It’s hard to talk about Wes Anderson’s movies from the perspective of various elements and what works and what doesn’t. The simple reality is that his style doesn’t resonate with everyone. Some people will find the almost-constant lateral tracking shots and weird angles off-putting. That’s understandable. I am one of those who can deal with it. Then there is the fact that the acting is always off too. Anderson likes a specific kind of character – the understated one. You almost never see a character losing their cool or getting worked up. The acting is always downplayed. I get the feeling that it makes being in his movies into a giant pain in the ass. I can only imagine what kind of director Wes Anderson is. Because his movies are so verbose, being in them requires a special kind of actor. I get the feeling that bad performances are not tolerated.
To that end, every performance in this film was pretty great. For starters, getting to see Bruce Willis as a character again is quite nice. He’s been phoning it in for so long that you forget that there is actually a really good actor underneath it all. I have missed this guy. I haven’t seen Frances McDormand in anything in years. She’s pretty funny. Bil Murray is Bill Murray. But honestly, the two who steal the film are the kids who play Sam and Suzy. Both of them have this weird chemistry that makes their little relationship both adorable and believable. I know, hard to believe, given that the style is so weird. However, it works.
Another reason that I like this movie is because it makes me think back to my own childhood. While no child is like Sam or Suzy, I was still a weird kid. I was alone a lot (as opposed to now, where all I am is alone), doing my own thing. I kind of lived in my own little world. The friends I had were people who I thought would like living in that little world with me. Wish I had the guts these two kids had, going off somewhere for an adventure. Oh well. It’s all just memories, now. The messages about childhood in this movie bring back those memories. Adulthood hasn’t done much, for me. Just poverty and constantly being alone. Yay.
Worth pointing out is that there are elements of this film that might make one a bit uncomfortable. The idea of young love is addressed, and they don’t pull any punches. If that sort of thing weirds you out, consider yourself warned.
All of this being said, the simple fact is that your enjoyment of this movie hinges on how much you can put up with its style. There isn’t a single frame where it isn’t there. If this review seems disjointed, now you know how this movie is. I think it’s a lot of fun, but your mileage will vary. This movie isn’t always cathartic. It’s a story about young love, and sometimes that is hard. Take that for what you will.
8 out of 10