June 24, 2012

Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

I will be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Wes Anderson. I liked Bottle Rocket and Fantastic Mr. Fox, but Darjeeling and Life Aquatic did not do much for me. I will also say that I think I need to revisit those other films, and see some for the first time. Lastly, allow me to say that I think Moonrise Kingdom may be my favorite Anderson movie. There is something about this movie that I really liked and have found difficult to express just why. Let's see if I can find a way.

Moonrise Kingdom is a tale of childhood experimentation in a strange fantasy world that plays by its own rules, rather, the rules set by Wes Anderson. I am unsure of all, if anything, that Anderson wants to say, and I am not sure it matters.

The center of the story tells of two young people who are not happy with where they are. They see potential for freedom in each other and act on it, running away into the wilderness. Now, there is the question to whether or not they know what is right for them or not, the easy and likely correct answer is no, they are much too young to understand the implications of everything, but they do know well enough to push the boundaries and rebel against authority. This action forces others into action as their families and others set out to find them. All of this goes down as a major storm is fast bearing down on them.

On one side you have Sam (Jared Gilman). He is a Khaki Scout who does not feel comfortable with the restrictions and is not liked by his peers. He chooses to runaway and employ the scouting skills he as learned. On the other side is Suzy (Kara Hayward), she is a bookish sort who loves the freedom on display in fantasy novels and escaping into music.

The two are certainly an odd pairing, but they see, in each other, something different, a chance to try something new. It is youthful innocence and rebellion that drives them into the wilderness. Those trying to find them are Suzy's parents, played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, the sheriff (Bruce Willis) of the island where this goes down, and Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton).

The movie has a simple, fairy tale-like atmosphere. Everything is highly stylized and slyly humorous. There are a lot of ridiculous elements, but they are not treated as such. There is an air of somber seriousness surrounding everything. Sure, characters may seem detached or regard the situations with bemused expressions, but never is anything treated as a joke. There is a lot of humor there, but it is left for the audience to react to.

I found Moonrise Kingdom to work on a few levels. There is the look, beautifully framed and nicely laid out. There is the way it is shot, there is very little camera movement, not unlike the we Kevin Smith shoots. There is a strong sense of flatness, in the look and the performances. Tis is all about the presentation and you are either going to like it or you're not. I worked nicely for me, it is a different look than your standard Hollywood film

The other side of the coin has he acting and the story. The acting is as flat as the look, and it works. There is something about the way everyone takes a matter of fact approach to everything. There are small shifts between emotions, but it still has a very even keel to it. The story has rebellion, hope, wonder, and danger as these children act out and experiment in their innocence as the storm or adolescence bears down on them. Right there you have the big thing for the movie, innocence and its impending loss. It is abut getting in these last moments of childhood before everything changes. The adults recognize this and as much as they want to protect them, cannot stop it from happening.

The bottom line is that Moonrise Kingdom is a wonderful, delightful, weird, movie that has a mesmerizing quality to it. It finds ways to work in a variety of fashions. I often wondered just what it was that I was watching, and thinking back I am still not entirely sure. What I do know is that it needs to be seen and given a shot. You may find yourself liking what you see and wishing more directors made odd films like this.

Highly Recommended.


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