Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

     Wes Anderson's newest film Moonrise Kingdom is one of his most mature and passionate projects to date. It is magical and is without a doubt in the realm of being in the Wes Anderson world of quirkiness, revolving solely around the characters that are in this world. The freshness and beauty of young love in this film can bring anyone back to their childhood with happiness and nostalgia. The film is a story of desire, resourcefulness and the search for love in the midst of youthful experience. Moonrise Kingdom stays away from the heavily-laden, depressed characters of Anderson's most recent films, with the exception of the playful and exceptional Fantastic Mr. Fox, and focuses on the tender, impulsiveness of juvenile love.
     The film follows teens Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who have become pen pals for a year and abscond on their own adventure. They begin to explore there feelings, love and tackle their anxieties. Taking place in 1965 on an undisclosed New England island, with an impending tropical storm merely days out, we see our two teens go on an adventure on-the-run through the island.  It is melancholic and sweet to see these two individuals begin to evaluate existence away from normal life. Khaki Scout Sam goes from foster parent to parent and Suzy struggles with the boredom and uneventfulness of her parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and three brothers. The kids are rebellious, but at the same time are lost and in search of a grown up life they know little about. The main point is at this point in their young lives they want each other and are willing to throw caution in the wind to achieve their youthful passion for one another.

     The two young, unknown actors are perfectly cast. Their innocence is portrayed elegantly by these two and show a director with a knack for brilliant casting. The turmoil of their innocent young life played against the backdrop of the oncoming storm and the search conducted by the local police, parents and scout leader ensues. Their hidden place, later titled with Moonrise Kingdom, is a cove where these young teens experience and express their young love for each other. They dance, kiss and Suzy reads here unreturned books that she has basically stolen from the library to Sam, continuing with his stoic approval. Their rebelliousness is shown through flashbacks where Suzy gets into a confrontation at school and Sam has continued trouble at foster homes. Their compassion is shown in a scene where they have been separated and Sam's scout members rescue Suzy from her parents home. She reconnects with Sam at Captain Sharp's home in a gorgeously choreographed scene looking down a chimney at Sam. Its beautiful, magical and heartwarming. Its a personal story that speaks to the drive, innocence and blind love that is so adored and chased after when your with your first love.
     The details are so key in an Anderson film, and although he is described as having too much style which outweighs the substance, such as his films The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited, this film does not fall into that category. The film starts with dolly shots that examine the rooms of the Bishop's home, but as the film unfolds we see a filmmaker tell a story that intricately focuses on the relationship between these two characters. This is not at all to say the quirky details are not there in the dress, Bill Murray's vivid, checkered pants and the stop motion maps that show where the kids travel to on the island and where the search groups goes in search of them. To me, it felt has if Anderson rolled back on the style and the substance and harken back to his first two films Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. It is funny and heartfelt. Poignant tales of oddballs and adventure seekers going through the heartaches and joys of life.
     The supporting cast in the film is phenomenal as always. You have the staples, such as the aforementioned Bill Murray, his fifth collaboration with Anderson, as well as Jason Schwartzman, but with Wes Anderson newcomers Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and our narrator Bob Balaban. They are all fantastic but in my opinion Norton and Willis stand out the most. Norton plays the Khaki Scout Master Ward with a sweet tenderness but also a man in search of acceptance with the Scout leadership. Bruce Willis is great in role of lonely police officer Captain Sharp. It is contained and full of a man who wants more but is stuck in the malaise of weakness,but finds his courage later in the film. Outstanding work from both and they are men in search of growth and family. It also appears that all of the characters are envious of the innocent love that Sam and Suzy possess. They wish that they had or could find that love again or for the first time themselves.

     The work of composer Alexandre Desplat, his second collaboration with Wes Anderson, the other being Fantastic Mr. Fox, adds to the magical, fairy tale feel Anderson has achieved in the film. It does not over do it and places the right tones, in the right places, without forceful action. I also enjoyed the use of Hank Williams songs accompanying Bruce Willis' police officer Captain Sharp, which gave a deep sense of loneliness to his character. As well, Anderson decides not to go with the classic pop and rock songs (Rolling Stones, The Kinks, etc.) and sticks with the brilliant score and some suave French music, mainly Francoise Hardy's melancholic "Le Temps De L'amour."
     Once again Anderson works with the director of photography he has worked with on all of his pictures, except Fantastic Mr. Fox, Robert Yeoman. His strategic dolly movements and precise blocking is delicately composed and the golden tint gives a dreamlike feel to this fantasy on the island.
     Moonrise Kingdom is definitely a Wes Anderson film. It is very funny, but poignant and lonely. It revolves in a detached reality that still focuses on the human emotion and creative, awkward experience of first love. The film is for adults looking back on the magic and awkwardness of that first romantic kiss and experience. Wes Anderson took us back to our childhood and all the humor and agony that goes along with it. It is as if we got a glimpse into Anderson's first romance and the excitement and neuroses that were experienced along the way. Oh yeah, it happened in a very stylized way and with Wes Anderson, it is the way it has to be. I'm an unabashed Anderson fan and loved every second of this film. I highly recommend it and think he has taken a turn to a more focused narrative where the style does not take control over the substance. Although I like that style a lot. 

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