Moonrise Kingdom

13 August 2012 | 12:23 pm | Ian Barr

While watching Moonrise Kingdom, it's hard to fathom what a divisive figure writer/director Wes Anderson has become. On some levels, it's understandable; his films are – at least on the surface – twee, precious, fussily constructed, and beloved by hipsters, and hipsters are bad, or something. And yet, they're so lovingly made, filled with such a rich spirit of generosity to the people in them, and so keen to share their utopian worlds with an audience, that the idea someone can actively hate them seems faintly absurd.

His latest is set in 1965 on an island off the coast New England, and concerns a romance between youngsters Sam and Suzy; the former a boy scout and orphan, who flees his summer camp to meet and run away with Suzy, as per plans made through exchanged letters during their time apart. Meanwhile, his scoutmaster (Edward Norton) organises a hunt with his fellow scouts. It's the first of Anderson's films to deal directly with young love, and a perfect match of subject and sensibilities.

It's also his most Wes Anderson-y film to date; upon the first shot – a gliding lateral pan, inside a heavily decorated and colourful house interior that resembles an oversized diorama – one could easily reflexively cringe at the trumpeting of his signature style. But it's helpful to remember the words of US critic Kent Jones, from a 2001 review of The Royal Tenenbaums, “at his best, his cinema is built from layer upon layer of self-consciousness, tottering not by mistake but by design, always on the verge of exposing a quivering emotional core”. Moonrise Kingdom may be built with more of those same layers, but that core is just as omnipresent. It's pretty goddamn delightful.