Monday, July 16, 2012

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom

Having seen a few of Wes Anderson's other films (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, and Fantastic Mr. Fox to be exact), I knew that going to see his newest movie, Moonrise Kingdom, would not be a disappointment. At the very least, his films promise stunning visuals, quick-witted dialogue, and a unique vision. This film in particular had the added attraction of being set in 1965, being about young love, and being filled with an all-star cast. Despite––or perhaps because of the fact that I knew exactly what this film was likely to be, I had to see it.

The film follows two 12-year-old outcasts who fall in love and run away together. The girl, Suzy (Kara Hayward), is largely ignored by her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and her three brothers. The boy, Sam (Jared Gilman), is an unpopular orphan who doesn't quite fit in at khaki scouts. After word gets out that the pair have flown the coop, everyone from the Scout Master of Sam's troop (Edward Norton) to the local police chief (Bruce Willis) to social services (Tilda Swinton) gets involved in trying to track them down and dramedy ensues.

Image credit: Beth Mathews.

As I mentioned, I knew what to expect from a Wes Anderson film and I pretty much got it from this one. The cinematography is stunning. Every shot is incredibly well thought out. (In fact, the photographer in me was sitting there in the theatre geeking out about the composition.) And like many of his other films, Anderson uses a consistent (and vivid) color palette throughout the film. And the 1960s costumes, oh man, don't even get me started on the 1960s costumes... Basically, it's a gorgeous film and you have to see it for yourself, but for now I'll leave some stills at the end of this post so you enjoy the visuals from the comfort of your own home.

My ears were as happy as my eyes while watching this film. If someone went into this movie without knowing about Anderson's penchant for music, they'd understand how important it is to the feel of his films by the end of the opening sequence. There's also some groovy-chic 60s French pop and Hank Williams, and it's just plain fun.

The cast is fabulous. It is as easy to empathize with Edward Norton's struggles as the little-camp-counselor-that-couldn't as it is to chuckle at them. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are super stars and can do no wrong in my completely biased opinion. And, as one critic put it, it's always nice to see Bruce Willis when he's "not operating in paycheck-whore mode" (which probably explains why I loved him in The Kid and this film and that's about it.) The kids were fantastic too! They really got the whole young-lovers-who-have-no-idea-what-they're-doing-but-think-they-know-exactly-what-they're-doing thing down to science. And the small roles for Tilda Swanson and Jason "it wouldn't be a Wes Anderson film without him" Schwartzman were also pretty entertaining. If you still need more convincing of the quality of this film's cast, check out Bill Murray as he leads a tour of the film set:

The story itself is lighthearted and fun. Anderson blurs line between reality and fantasy in this film as he so often does in his films. In fact, after seeing the movie, my movie-mate/mother mentioned to me that the whole thing had kind of a "put-on" feeling, and I thought that rang true; we talked about how watching the film almost felt like watching the Noah's Ark play it briefly depicts. The young-love plot is half-heartwarming and half-smirk-inducing, a tug of war for the viewer between heart and head, love and common-sense, childhood innocence and adult jadedness. (Which is why I think this film did well to have a healthy dose of fantasy). I won't spoil it for you, except to say that it somehow reaches an equilibrium between these two extremes and it amuses along the way.

So, though it used all the same tricks as his others, this Wes Anderson film felt fresh, not formulaic. And maybe that's because his style is so unique that––compared to anyone but himself––it's always going to feel fresh. I mean, watching the first ten minutes of this and other films of his is basically a process of acclimation, like culture-shock at the movies. I think that's why he's so respected––his films make you feel like you've been transported inside his head and you're seeing things from his perspective. (But I'm getting a little too Charlie Kaufman for this blog [a little joke for all you film-buffs out there].) Overall, I would recommend this film if you're in the mood for something amusing, whimsical, unique, quirky, absurd, pretty-to-look-at or just plain new. As promised, here are some stills from the film:

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