An acquired taste. Many directors fit into this category - Woody Allen, David Cronenberg - and Wes Anderson firmly sits alongside those individuals.
So far his cinematic efforts - The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Rushmore - have garnered critical praise but not a huge fanbase. A strong, but small cult collective following could be an apt description. But it looks like that could all be about to change.
The best way to describe Anderson's latest is as if The Cohen Brothers took a stab at doing their version of the recent British flick Submarine. Their quirky humour, the oddball characters, the delirious dialogue - the benchmarks of all of The Cohen Brothers outputs are present and correct here in Anderson's tale of young love that can't be contained by an island, Scout leaders, vengeful Scout troops or an impending storm. Yes, it's that kind of a movie!
From the get-go, Anderson has the camera move through, conveyor-belt style, a house that ends up looking and feeling like a full scale doll's house. The automated dolly shots introduces the viewer to one half of the young "lovers" family as they gather round and listen to a vinyl deconstruction of classical music on a portable record player whilst Mum (a restrained McDormand) and Dad (a spaced out Murray) sit in separate rooms. The introduction to the wayward other love interest, sees his escape, Shawshank Redemption style from his Scout tent, much to the shock and incredulous look of disbelief of Norton's brilliant Scout Master. That one of his charges would willingly resign from the Scouts is unthinkable to him.
Now, the first few Harry Potter's had the issue of a fantastic mature cast to dazzle the audience but they were still only the sideline characters - the story had to rest on the shoulders of the then under-performing youths (Radcliffe, Grint and Watson) which pulled back some of the suspension of disbelief and enjoyment of the films. Here, the mature cast is exceptional - already mentioned are Murray, McDormand, Norton. However there is Keitel in fine strong, superior cameo mode and once again Willis in the understated and quietly scene-stealing performance that woke everyone up to what he could do in The Sixth Sense. That said though, they are still secondary to the two young kids that experience the first blossoming of true love that find themselves drawn to each other partly due to their not-too-happy childhood lives - he an orphan that isn't liked by his peers and she the "mis-understood" child of the family. Gilman is easily believable as the boy who just doesn't fit in and Hayward is 'sit-up-and-take-notice" fantastic as the girl who would start off the islands biggest search and rescue mission involving Police, Scouts, worried parents and the epitome of evil - Social Services, played coldly by Swinton.
As all the threads start to come together to form a deliriously OTT finale, you still find yourself either laughing at a look or a line from any member of the cast or the mounting absurdity of the situation as each character gets to play their pivotal role in the proceedings. The effects are low-budget, but that only adds to the charm, and you can even forgive Anderson for doing a Benny Hill-esque sequence where Gilman is chased by a horde of angry Scouts in a field, all speeded up!
A charming delight from start to finish,and just like Submarine, it's a representation of a childhood that part of you wishes you had experienced.
UK release date: 25.05.12