Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - Movie Review

I really would love to know what goes on in Wes Anderson's head or where his mind goes to come up with this stuff.

Moonrise Kingdom is the story of young love, but as with many Wes Anderson films, is fleshed out with unusual characters, situations and dialog.  Similar to other Anderson films, the movie feels more like fairy tale than something that could actually happen.

The story takes place in the 60's on a small island.  Two young pre-teens, Sam and Suzy, meet and decide to run away together.  They plan this over a series of letters for a year.  Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan and really isn't able to bond or relate to anyone from his "Khaki Scout" troop, where Suzy (Kara Hayward) also feels like she doesn't identify her family.  Once it's discovered that they've both run away, this causes a panicked search by Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the scout troop and scoutmaster (Edward Norton), and local policeman Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis).

If it wasn't so tastefully done, I might have been creeped out more by the burgeoning love between Sam and Suzy.  We are dealing with kids here and during some of their more intimate moments it can be a little uncomfortable to watch.  It works because you actually become invested in their adventure and want to see them prevail against the odds. The whole movie hinges on whether or not you like them.  Anderson made a bold choice going with two newcomers in his lead roles, but Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward were both adorable and sympathetic.  Who doesn't remember their first love or crush?  Their portrayal is very heartfelt and I'm impressed Anderson got these this kind of performances out of two kids, let alone kids in their first film.  It's a testament to his skill as a director.

The adults are really secondary characters here.  Of course Bill Murray is back; you can't have a Wes Anderson film without him, but I didn't feel like he had all that much to do.  His character goes through the movie seemingly depressed, contrasted with Frances McDormand's frantic portrayal as Suzy's mother.  Ed Norton and Bruce Willis both were fantastic.  I love seeing actors play against type and they both did a great job here.  Ed Norton plays his scoutmaster with an earnestness that defines his character.  Willis gives a more subdued performance as he bonds with Sam, and eventually butt heads with Social Services (Tilda Swinton).  There are many other fun, smaller roles, but I won't spoil those for you.

There's a great use of color, music and attention to detail that really makes this feel authentic. Anderson has always had a very distinct visual style and his films feel like they are from a different time.  This time we actually know they are in the 60's, but it doesn't feel forced into that period.

Moonrise Kingdom does start out a little on the slow side, but it continues to build and get more unusual along the way.  It's only 93 minutes, so the pacing overall was good.  It never felt like it was going to run on too long.

The script by Anderson and Roman Coppola is full of the deadpan and quirky humor you've come to expect.  Anderson's films have never really been for everyone, so I can see people complaining that this it too cute or too quirky.  This isn't the film that's going to win you over if you haven't been a fan of his previously.  If you aren't familiar with him, then this is a good starter film into his universe.

After a few lackluster movies, Moonrise Kingdom shows that Wes Anderson is as strong as ever.  If you're a fan, then I think you're going to really love this.  It's a cute story about first love that has all the charm, humor and great performances you'd want.  This is in limited release, so it might not be playing near you, but don't hesitate to go a little out of your way for this one.

4.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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