Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand
Directed by Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr.
Moonrise Kingdom is a fantastic film full of laughs and full of heart. Directed by Wes Anderson, it is also unmistakably a Wes Anderson film. Anderson has got to be one of the most distinct filmmakers of our time, with an odd visual style all his own. There are very few filmmakers today - Quentin Tarantino is another that comes to mind - where you could catch only a few seconds of any one of his films and know who made it.
Believe it or not, although I respect his bizarre, peculiar visual style as a director, I have never acquired a taste for Anderson's films. I was unimpressed with pretty much his entire filmography (blasphemy to some, I know), which includes Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limitedand most recently the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox.
I'm a firm believer in Mr. Wes Anderson after witnessing Moonrise Kingdom, easily the best film of 2012 thus far.
Sticking to his old tricks, he finally matches tone with story. Moonrise Kingdom is a child's fable about two outcast children who fall in love and run away together. First-time actor Jared Gilman is 12 year-old Sam, an orphan and member of the Khaki Scouts, an obvious parody of the Boy Scouts. The year is 1965, and Sam meets Suzy (fellow first-timer, Kara Hayward) off-stage during their school production of Noah's Ark after Sam bursts into the ladies' dressing room. The two become pen pals and agree to run off together in one year's time.
That year has arrived, and Khaki Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and the rest of his young flock find that their fellow scout Sam has gone AWOL. He's stolen an air rifle, some supplies and a canoe and has high-tailed it off the coast of his New England island. Suzy escapes the confines of her seemingly normal home, the lair of her drifty dad (Bill Murray) and her over-bearing mother (Frances McDormand), who communicates to the other three children by way of a bullhorn.
As Master Ward assembles his troupe for a seek and rescue mission, he enlists the help of the Island Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to aide him in their search. Elsewhere, a lady simply known as "Social Services" (a red-headed Tilda Swinton) is also in search of Sam, who's foster parents recently have "decided not to invite him back" to their home.
Sam and Suzy are young but in love, and they set off on adventure together with only the supplies that he has stolen, and some items that she has taken. She is an avid reader and also lifted her brother's record player. Sam impresses her with his Khaki Scout knowledge and she reads to him at night while he smokes his pipe. The two even become intimate.
In another universe, it may be disturbing that two pre-teens share a kiss and dance around the moonlit beach in their under -wear, eventually French-kissing. But in Wes Anderson's world, this is the least worrisome oddity.
And odd it is, there is just no better word to describe what is going on here. It is a simple story that is layered with absurdity after absurdity, resulting in plenty of laughs and even a few shocking moments.
The film excels greatly in the contrasts. Every shot, every character, is portrayed as pulled from the mind of a child. Everybody speaks seriously and plays it straight, not aware of the silliness that permeates every scene.
Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward shine the brightest amongst an amazing ensemble. Like an orchestra, each component is strong and interesting in their own way, but when combined together, a glorious symphonic sound is created. This orchestra can be considered a masterpiece.
The entire film filters through a child's eye, and so it never becomes deeper or more than what a 12 year-old may have experienced in life. People are struck by lightning, dogs are shot with arrows, and yet no real harm seems to have been committed. There are even some action sequences that seem to have been put together by third graders. Anderson makes great use of the time period too, shooting some sequences to feel as if they were authentically produced in the 60s.
Each character is clueless to some degree, including the two delusional children at the film's center. The interaction amongst all of the different characters leads to a steady diet of laughs from start to finish. The reality created between Sam and Suzy also manages to tug at the heart-strings.
The originality of Moonrise Kingdom sets it apart from other films this summer. The characters, the script and even the music work together in creating a rare kind of film - An "artsy" film that also has the potential to be loved by the masses.
If none of this is even making the tiniest bit of sense, don't worry. A Wes Anderson film is hard to describe unless you're familiar with his work. Whether you are or you aren't, Moonrise Kingdom needs to be on your must-see list this summer...you're going to want to be familiar with it in a few more months once award season rolls around.
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