My name is Winston Hearn, and I am interested in life. Life in all its glory, horror, and mundanity. I read a lot in the interest of living an examined life, and this blog is where I post links I want to reference later and thoughts stemming from recent readings.
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Early in The Royal Tenenbaums the character Margot Tenenbaum is seen as a child running away to the Natural History museum with her brother Richie. It is a side note, a minor bit of character exposition, but I knew the minute I saw that I would love the movie.
The short scene was an homage to the book “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg. This book, one of my childhood favorites, tells the story of two siblings who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and uncover a mystery. The book is a wonderful story that captures all the romance and innocence of youth as two kids hide out for weeks in a museum, exploring a different wing every night.
When my siblings and I would play outside (nearly every afternoon that it was warm enough) we would build forts in the woods and pretend that we were orphans. In our minds, the retired neighbors mowing their yards were cops searching for us, and the drainage ditch behind their house was our main path between forts. We spent countless days making our forts and the stories that surrounded them ever more elaborate.
A third of the way through Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, the main female character Suzie remarks that all her favorite characters in the books she reads are orphans, and she thinks that orphan’s lives are “more special.” Sam, her male co-adventurer and an orphan himself, pauses, looks at her, and then tenderly responds “I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Yet even as Sam rebukes Suzie’s romantic thoughts on his plight in life, he is leading her on an adventure that reveals his own romance. They are running away, attempting to ditch all their problems and start over together. He may not think orphan’s life is special, but he thinks there are things in life special enough to pursue. As I watched them on their adventure I couldn’t help but recall From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and all the similar books I read as a child.
The film took me back to when I was 12, when I read books like Suzie reads, when I had the world figured out like Sam, and when the idea of running away seemed like a fun and exciting thing to do. It perfectly captured the romance of youth, without stepping into parody or sentimentalism. Anderson has created a film that is unique - I can’t think of a counterpart in recent memory. The film exists in the tension of the pause that comes before Sam responds to Suzy; in the fleeting moment of romance before we encounter the wisdom of experience.