The director's fascination with parentlessness infused Moonrise Kingdom, out today on DVD, with warmth and wit.
"I always wish I were an orphan. All my favorite characters are," 12-year-old Suzy tells Sam, the boy with whom she has run away from home in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, out today on DVD. Sam, who actually is an orphan, responds curtly: "I love you. But you don't know what you're talking about."
It's an amusing exchange but also a telling one, given Anderson's long romance with parentlessness. Though few of the characters in his oeuvre are genuine orphans, nearly all are de facto ones. Dead mothers (Rushmore, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou), dead fathers (The Darjeeling Express), absent mothers (Darjeeling), absent fathers (Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums), parents that don't really register at all (Bottle Rocket)—Anderson's world is one in which the protagonists, whatever their ages, are of necessity sui generis.
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And so we have Sam, the true orphan, and Suzy, the would-be one—the "difficult" eldest child of a pair of unhappily married lawyers—frantically self inventing, cobbling together identities from the odds and ends of an imagined adulthood: a coonskin cap and corncob pipe for him, candy-colored luggage and cerulean eyeshadow for her. Striking out on their own into the wilds of "New Penzance Island" circa 1965, they mime maturity in ways small and large—engineering earrings out of fishhooks and beetle carcasses; tiptoeing toward a sexuality they only dimly understand; chewing gum as they decide whether or not to get married.