May 16, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom begins with a series of pans across the home of Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) depicting her daily activities with her brothers and her parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand). We see Suzy looking at the world through binoculars, which she describes as her special power, as she can see things in greater detail. We then cut to the camp of Khaki Scouts run by the overzealous, hyper meticulous, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), where we learn of the disappearance of orphan Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), the least popular member of the camp.

Sam, as it turns out, had met Suzy, and after a correspondence, the pair decided to run away together. A series of events ensues that leads the Sheriff of the town (Bruce Willis) to lead a search party that encompasses everyone from the other Khaki Scouts to the parents to Scout Master Ward. Oh, and Tilda Swinton plays a character just named Social Services, which really tickled my fancy.

The film reflects the awkwardness of the adolescent love – the tension that grows from inexperience and the innocence that stems from youth. As Sam and Suzy journey across the island of New Penzance on an Indian Trail. They are both outcasts and find solace in each other. Suzy is a girl mature beyond her years with a biting anger that tends to go to the extreme. Sam is nerdy, but bold, with a confidence stemming from his absolute faith in his survival skills.

The pair are quite endearing, and help balance each other's flaws as they find intimacy outside of the home that Suzy finds is falling apart and Sam has already lost. While Sam is deeply rooted in the land and tries to find himself a home, even as his foster parents leave him by the wayside, Suzy very much wants to escape, throwing herself into fantasy books and dreaming about the day she can leave home. We see the lives that shaped them and how their relationship can act as the superpower that will save the lives of those around them.

Wes Anderson might as well have stamped each individual frame with the words A WES ANDERSON PRODUCTION on every corner. From his signature dollies, to the hyperbolized characters (portrayed by a brilliant cast), it is hard to say whether he chose to make a film based on an idea or whether he made a film in order to continue his own artistic reputation. While the script was engaging and the characters were endearing, the movie went just a little too long, and characters like Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) felt inserted for the sake of having quirky characters. Every shot was perfectly framed and centered – but to a point that left me exasperated.

The score was perfect – one of the strongest aspects of the film thanks to Alexander Desplat – and integrated well into the film to reflect Suzy’s love of music. Through charming French tunes, the world was turned from the cold, grey of Rhode Island, to a magical place in which young love can drive misery away.

As a whole, the film was great, but weaker than my favorites of Anderson's (Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums), almost combining the two in his effort to replicate his own style. Still, the positive aspects far outshine the negative, making the film a wonderfully joyful and spirited opener for Cannes. A solid A-.

PG-13, 94 Minutes
Comedy, Romance
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

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