Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review of MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)

- Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.
- Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel
- Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
- Directed by Wes Anderson
- Running time: 1hr 33min.

I really like Wes Anderson.  I still haven't seen LIFE AQUATIC, but I saw BOTTLE ROCKET when it first came out on video and loved it.  I missed RUSHMORE, but loved ROYAL TENENBAUMS, THE DARJEELING LIMITED and FANTASTIC MR. FOX.  I got a chance to see RUSHMORE a few years ago, and it's the only one of his I don't love.  Which is funny I guess, since it's most of my friends' favorite.  I'll have to give it a second chance, but I was very much looking forward to his first live action film in 5 years, which looked like more of his quirky goodness.

Like most films from Anderson, there are several characters featured in the story, though this time there are just 2 main characters.  The focus is on two 12 year olds (or around that age) in 1965 Rhode Island.  Sam and Suzy meet and immediately fall in love with each other, so they plan to run away to a small island together.  Sam leaves his Boy Scout-like camp, and Suzy leaves her home full of unhappiness so they can be together, though they still don't really know each other.  This causes the community to panic.  Bill Murray and Francis McDormand play Suzy's parents who are very upset by her disappearance.  Ed Norton plays Sam's scout master who sends his troops to find the 2 runaways. Bruce Willis plays the local cop who is in charge of the case, and also having an affair with McDormand.  Child services is also sent out to the town (in the form of Tilda Swinton) to retrieve Sam, whose foster parents won't take him back. 

Just like most Anderson films, every character is eccentric and low key.  It's his thing.  With his 7th film now, his style is as confident as ever.  Every shot is perfectly framed and the editing precisely paced.  All of his films are comedies, but not the laugh-out-loud kind.  They're bittersweet.  You smile at the awkwardness.  You chuckle at the silliness.  And you marvel at the colorful visual palette.  His films seem to take place in a completely different world than the one we know, and for me, that's the reason why I love his films so much.  The universe he creates within his movies are fascinating. 

At the center of the all the subtle wackiness is the charming, tender story of friendship and discovery between Sam and Suzy.  Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward both make their screen debuts here as the young lovers and are nothing short of amazing.  They deliver Anderson's dialogue with deadpan delivery.  Which means they fit right in with his cast of regulars.  Bill Murray does a solid job, but you wouldn't expect him to be anything less here.  Francis McDormand and Bruce Willis are newcomers but they seem to get the rhythm of the filmmaker.  Ed Norton is probably my favorite performance here.  His forcefully upbeat work as the chipper, optimistic scout leader is something we haven't seen from him since DEATH TO SMOOCHY.  Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel are fun, but I thought Bob Balaban as the straight-faced narrator was a nice touch. 

This is a wonderful coming of age story.  Even though there's craziness always going on with the goofy characters, the film's best scenes are between Sam and Suzy when they're by themselves.  There relationship is pure and honest.  They tell each other everything and accept on another for who they are.  One of my favorite moments is when they share their first french kiss.  Sure, it's funny, but there's something beautifully truthful about it too.  I almost wish they had more scenes together instead of focusing on the adults, but it wasn't that big of deal to me.

The direction is top notch per usual.  Anderson is a master of bringing bright colors into his  imaginative production design.  The sets are also awesome.  I love how the camera just moves through Suzy's house in unbroken takes as her brothers listen to classical records on the floor.  The movie is also full of unforgettable images: Sam being struck by lightning, the tallest tree house in the world, the finale at the top of the church and a motorcycle stuck on the top of a tree.  He uses images to tell a story, displaying a unique voice in the world of filmmaking.  He has developed a style for himself that works and I can't wait to see his next movies. 

Also, I brought my 8 year old daughter to this.  She saw MR FOX, but none of his live action films (I guess they ARE rated R).  Since she has never really seen anything quite like this before, she was completely enchanted, taking in this strange world.  She identified with Suzy, since she was into fantasy stories.  There were a few questionable suggestive moments, but they were so honest that I didn't mind her seeing them.  Immediately when we got home, she asked if she could watch the trailers for all of Anderson's other films online.  She really wants to see his movies now. 

This isn't my favorite Anderson film (that's probably TENENBAUMS) but it fits absolutely perfect within his filmography.  I admit that these films are an acquired taste.  If you haven't liked his other films, then this one won't change your mind.  But if you love his work, than you'll find this a nice addition to his work.  It's sweet, charming, quirky, imaginative, poignant, and whimsical.  Just what a Wes Anderson film should be. 

***1/2 (out of ****)

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