It’s Not Time to Grow Up

By Emily Golchini

Wes Anderson: one of the few directors that can win over hipster Brooklynites and your midwestern father all in one showing. Whether it is his particularly balanced shots, playfully colorful ambience, or humorously ironic plots, Wes Anderson is known for his distinct voice and aesthetic. Though every wannabe filmmaker will oooh and aaah over Anderson’s notable technique, Anderson continues to fill seats with all ages because of his seasoned toying with childhood and innocence. Wes Anderson’s most recent films – Isle of Dogs, Grand Budapest Hotel, and Moonrise Kingdom – win over the audience’s hearts by taking young characters with which the audience falls in love and humorously assigns them “adult” roles. Over time, this has become the heart of Anderson’s style. Though many aspects of Wes Anderson films deserve analyzation and praise, Anderson’s unique sense of style is centered around his skillful toy of innocence and the power of children. We see such handling of the topic through the key two elements that are apparent in the plot of Isle of Dogs, Grand Budapest Hotel, and Moonrise Kingdom: (1) children experiencing “mature love” and (2) children playing the heroes.
While it never dominates the plot of his films, Wes Anderson uses “mature love” – a type of love, typically ending in marriage- to playfully and humorously expose the innocent nature of young children. Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom best illustrate this notion: both films feature young characters running away with their significant others, toying with the concept of marriage and even risking their life for a partner they had, realistically, just met. In Grand Budapest Hotel, main character Zero, who could not be much older than eleven, suavely woos his love interest Agatha. The dialogue of the film is hilariously serious and profound when the two interact, “for my dearest, darling, treasured, cherished Agatha, whom I worship. With respect, adoration, admiration, kisses, gratitude, best wishes, and love. From Z. to A.” (Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014) The irony that arises from the seriousness within their exchanges only highlights the ridiculousness of the scenario, exposing the true, innocent, nature of children. In other words, the juxtaposition of children and serious, deep, romantic love draws attention to the disconnect between these children and their fully-matured roles. Such contrast subtly hints that Anderson’s youthful characters are merely playing “dress-up” as adults, which illuminates the playful voice that audiences universally love and attribute to Anderson’s style. Moonrise Kingdom plays with this concept when the plot humorously shows main characters and lovers Sam and Suzy on a beach attempting to show their love for one another the same way that adults might express their love. As expected, what they believe to be the adult norm only exposes their adorably innocent and pure nature,
SAM: I made you some jewelry.
Sam holds up two dead, shimmering, opalescent beetles with
fish-hooks threaded into their shells. Suzy looks enchanted.
SAM: Are your ears pierced?
CUT TO: Inside the tent, lit by a lantern. Sam clenches his teeth as
he forces one of the fish-hooks through Suzy’s earlobe. Suzy
screams murderously. Sam releases her. The beetle dangles
neatly. A line of blood runs down the side of Suzy’s neck.
Sam holds up a little mirror. Suzy nods.” (Moonrise Kingdom, 2012)
Both films allude to a playful disconnect between the main characters and their maturely-characterized roles.
In addition to the mature love that these characters feel for their significant others, Anderson reveals the children’s innocence by embarking their characters on perilous adventures that closely resemble the imaginatory adventures most might kids commence when gathering with friends around the house. In each of Anderson’s films, the child characters are the ultimate heroes. This mimics the psychology that most children believe when playing imaginatory games with friends. Most children truly believe that they are capable of saving the world, and we see proof of this through the plots of all films marketed to children. Isle of Dogs does an excellent job at supporting this notion: in Isles of Dogs, the main human character Atari and his determined army of dogs fight against the Japanese Government (almost) in its entirety to reintegrate dogs into the culture. Challenges that they endure include: physically attacking mobs of armed mechanical dogs, fighting and incriminating the powerful Mayor Kobayashi, assembling a support force of other children to get the dog-flu serum, and freeing all of the dogs from the Trash Island. While Isle of Dogs is a film that utilizes fantasy and heroism that is not greatly different from traditional superhero movies, Anderson uses such extreme scenarios to potentially allude to the imaginary world that many children create when they are Atari’s age. Because of such reference, there is a subsequent playful and warm feeling of nostalgia that the audience inevitably feels when watching the film. Moonrise Kingdom also alludes to such concept during the final scenes of the movie where couple, Suzy and Sam, attempt to save their city and each other from a perilous Hurricane. This scene is illustrated in a way that begs a parallel between this world and an imaginary world many young children create when playing games with one another. Both films set up events so that the main children are the only characters who have the capacity to save all of humanity. Additionally, all of the three films show children taking on perilous and extravagant adventures that mimic the imaginary world a child may create.
Though Wes Anderson is known for more than his toy with innocence, concepts such as mature love and fantasy adventures have become essential to the plot of his recent works. Both concepts are apparent in his three most recent films Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, and Isle of Dogs, which greatly contribute to his unique, yet, well-liked style. Anderson has become famous for his ability to create a scene that exhibits a wonderful disconnect between the characters and the adult roles that the characters are trying to play. Anderson warms the hearts of kids, teens, hipsters, and parents because he is able to remind us to embody our youth and avoid aging too quickly in the most clever and emotional manner. Perhaps we should remember that aging is simply a concept, and it is never too late to be a kid, again.