The important human experiences – heartbreak, joy, love, despair, failure, defiance – are often impossible to quantify. That’s one reason we need movies, where real life can be amplified and heightened until we forget where we are and start to believe that we’re actually a part of what’s happening on screen. But if the ineffable stuff in the world were easy to communicate on film, then none of them would be bad. We’d be living on a cloud where every movie is Citizen Kane or Vertigo or [your favorite classic film goes here].
This is also why Wes Anderson is valuable right now. Over the course of his still-young career he’s made a series of films that not only carry his idiosyncratic stamp but that also push his agenda, a pencil-on-vintage-stationery to-do list that includes the recognition of eccentricity as heroic trait, the need for brazenly heartfelt declarations of obsessive love, the value of failure and heaving sadness and the extreme importance of doing all of it while looking as cool as possible. Somewhere on that list might be "dancing to Francoise Hardy records," too, but then again that activity might fall under the heading of looking cool.
Sam (Jared Gilman) is very cool. He’s an orphaned, 12-year-old, scout trooper on a mission to get local girl Suzy (Kara Hayward) to run away with him (which echoes both Anderson’s earlier movie The Royal Tenenbaums and Anderson’s favorite runaway-kid templates Catcher in the Rye and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). She agrees because he's as boldly non-conformist and disagreeable as she is, but initially he's simply compelling. The moment they meet he casually excludes the other girls in the scene simply by repeating the word "you" and gesturing with eyes locked in her direction. He knows exactly what he wants, he's got a plan, he's going to make it happen and she's on board right away.
As quests for self go, it's small and kid-scale but, as Anderson tells it, equally momentous and universal thanks to the piling on of the director's aesthetic, cinematic and literary influences. His characters speak like extensions of the objects he places in the shot, deadpan and tired of being under-appreciated by a world that's not awesome enough to know how great they already understand themselves to be. And he places those characters in a universe built from his huge trove of too-much-stuff (one reason it all spills over into the precise, packed art direction). Then he cooks it down into his own highly specific creation and gives it to you to look at and dig through over and over, like when you walk into a friend's house for the first time to discover they've got a massive book, record or art collection you can't stop staring at and touching. The more times you visit the more you find and the more Anderson gives. We're lucky he's such a generous hoarder.