May 30, 2012

Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom

on the run for love
Wes Anderson's seventh directorial effort is an adorable machine of a film. The story revolves around two outcast children (Sam and Suzy, played by relative newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) and their young, earnest love. He is a recently retired Khaki Scout whose parents have died. She is the daughter of two litigators who don't know much about their oldest child except that she is an odd, disturbed duck. Trapped by the rules of the adults
around them and contained in the tiny New England island of New Penzance, the youngsters run away, making their way to an undisclosed location and being pursued by the many quirky people that populate their lives. Until the children go missing, they don't exist. Which probably has as much to do with why they run away as their love. Once they fly the coop, everyone is stirred into a frenzy, or as much of a frenzy one can be stirred into in a Wes Anderson film. What follows is a film of discovery, adventure, and love.

Naysayers say what they will, Anderson has created and sustained a very specific aesthetic over the course of his seven films, both visually and thematically. Uninterrupted shots of beautiful landscapes and interiors of buildings, specific and easily represented character traits, and blunt dialogue are all evident in his previous films and in Moonrise Kingdom as well. He also borrows from his earlier films in more specific ways: apologetic confrontations between husbands and wives (The Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic), foxes escaping from the authorities (The Fantastic Mr. Fox), and yellow tents of forbidden love (The Royal Tenenbaums). Wes Anderson isn't afraid to reference back to himself, and in fact has a fun time with it. Sometimes, he is the only one.

Young Love
Of course, all of the referencing in the world wouldn't be worth spit without an emotionally solid core. Anderson's films, for all their artistic beauty and witty repartee, can often feel cold and emotionless. Moonrise Kingdom is not that; the center of the film is Suzy and Sam's relationship, and they are incredibly earnest and touching. Their love is pure and honest, especially when compared to the other couples in the film, whose relationships are duplicitous and perfunctory at best. Anderson's dialogue, which can often seem too frank and blunt when spoken by adults, is perfectly suited for the child leads, whose life experiences haven't yet taught them to evade the truth and hide their feelings. Only a child could say a line as heart-breaking and honest as 'I love you, but you don't know what you're talking about' without a hint of malice.

The film is also very funny. Bill Murray is obviously amazing, but surprisingly humorous turns from Bruce Willis and Edward Norton (whose sad, pinched face and pained expressions lend themselves really well to comedy) take the film to a new level. Some nice third act cameos and Tilda Swinton evilness also make the film a heck of a lot of fun. It's especially fun once characters start fighting. Instead of getting louder, characters eyes just get wider and their lips thinner, as of they are desperately trying to contain the fear and anger boiling right below the surface. Yelling, it seems, is disallowed.

So where does this stack up against Anderson's other films? Not to get everyone into a huff, but we'd say somewhere above Life Aquatic and below Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums, the latter of which is his best film in that it is almost perfect. As for Moonrise Kingdom: in the middle of the film, Sam says to his paramour that poetry doesn't have to rhyme. It just has to be creative. With this, his seventh film, Wes Anderson has created just that.

Film Grade: 7 out of 8 stolen library books which may someday be returned.
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