Apparently I’m sincere. Depending on who you talk to, this is what’s either right with me, or wrong with me. My sincerity is what makes me baffled by my wife’s humor (wrong with me); it’s why I write the way I do (right or wrong with me, depending on which theatrical lit department you query); and it is why I wince at contemporary irony like I’ve just heard a knife screech against a plate (this is right with me, in my humble opinion). The latter, of course, makes me a sucker for Wes Anderson.
Anderson and Roman Coppola assemble what amounts to the perfect age-of-irony Trojan Horse. Its heart — young, pure love — is wrapped in an irresistible candy shell of almost-irony. One whose exposed-theatricality of dollhouse sets; deadpan narrators; and precocious, self-consciously styled children seduces the sincere and ironic viewer alike into biting into its soft center, which is when the assault of lovely, unadorned yearning pours out.
If nostalgia is defined by a yearning for the past, what Anderson gives us is a yearning for the alternate present. For a reality that in its worldview would be science fiction if it weren’t for its dearth of flying saucers. I want to be a Tenenbaum, even a miserable one — especially a miserable one. I want to sing Bowie’s Starman in French on Steve Zissou’s sub. I want to be recognized as special and adopted by a lovelorn Bruce Willis.
Even when Anderson flirts with what could be true danger — a “Lord of the Flies” assemblage of Boy Scouts mounting a violent frontal assault against our protagonists, we know that his world will forgive everyone their trespasses. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a place, after all, where a young man can say, with all insecurities fully present, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about,” and will be met with the daring, sincere reply, “I love you too.”
Sharr White makes his Broadway debut with the new play “The Other Place,” to open in January.