Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Title: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Director: Wes Anderson 

Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand


Wes Anderson is one of those directors whose films are immediately recognizable. You see a moment, an image, a frame and right there and then, you just know its a Wes Anderson film. Not once has he deviated from his style, not even with his stop motion animation film Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009); a film I enjoyed very much because it was an intelligent childrens film, that didn't talk down to kids as if they were idiots. Even within the confines of a stop motion animation film, Anderson's themes and style shined through. To me Anderson is one of those great American directors that puts lots of love and care, lots of craft in his films. He doesn't just make films, he makes a special effort to give us a work of art, something to be cherished and admired for years. I know I'm guilty of seeing The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) on countless occasions, laughing every step of the way every single time I see it. There's something endearing about his troubled characters, they are intelligent, often times geniuses that have as many psychological problems as the poorest people in the world. So here comes Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and of course I was excited about seeing Anderson's newest endeavour, would his style feel tired and redundant, or would it still delight?

Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of Sam and Suzy, two pre-teens who are wildly ahead of their time and proud of it. They are kids that are so smart that they end up garnering hatred from all of their peers. In his case, Sam cant stand being a 'Khaki Scout', he's learned all he can from it and he is ready to move on to more important things...like the opposite sex, true love, and yes, why not, even marriage. Suzy doesn't seem to fit with her family either. She considers herself a troubled youth; so, considering they have so much in common, they both decide to run away and create their own perfect little universe where they shun all the things they consider wrong in this world out of their lives. Will their happiness be interrupted? Or will it last forever?

So yeah, immediately you can tell it's Anderson behind the camera. It's all about those perfectly symmetrical shots, the detailed art direction, the psychologically troubled characters, the deliciously sarcastic dialog, the retro-look. The way that children act as adults, and adults act like children. The beauty of the films color scheme, so many things make this one oh so very Anderson-ish. Yet I welcomed it because I love taking a trip to Anderson's own personal filmic universe. It's what sets him apart and makes him different from other directors out there, and I appreciate that. Some might find his  films redundant, because of how similar they look, but honestly, I am not complaining, this is a beautiful looking film which I was devouring with my eyes. I can't complain when the result is such a beauty to behold. Complaining about how Anderson's films look is like saying that a Tim Burton film is 'too gothic'. This is just Anderson's own personal brand of filmmaking, and he aims to make you get used to it. Because these are his films, and very much so. You'll either love them or not, because at this point, Anderson's style is here to stay.

Wes Anderson, preparing to shoot a scene

Yet, not only is Moonrise Kingdom beautiful to look at but it is also populated by wonderful characters that are so well crafted and defined in their actions and motivations. I immediately fell in love with the two main characters, Sam and Suzy, two kids with the rebel gene engraved deep into their DNA. These two kids hate the way the world is and choose to turn their backs to it. Sam is an orphan, whose real parents he never met. And the foster parents he does have, don't want him! Suzy dislikes her mother because she knows about her infidelities. Together, both Sam and Suzy turn their backs to the world, finding their only little nook in a secret beach that they claim for themselves. This is their spot in the world, untainted by the evils of society. On this little spot they'll share their favorite books, share their first sensual encounters and truly bond as human beings. Who can blame them for doing that? So I loved these two head strong, oddball kids. I loved how much they respect and care for each other. How they take each other so seriously. This was a very honest portrayal of what it's like to be a kid and feel everything for the first time. 

So apparently, being in an Anderson film has become the equivalent of being in a Woody Allen film, or a Tarantino film. Or a film by the Coen Bros. You know how that goes, once actors get a whiff that a great director is making a film, they all want in! This is exactly what happened on Moonrise Kingdom, it's stellar cast is a testament to that. Loved that Bill Murray came on board once again for another Anderson film, it's gotten to the point where it almost feels like it wouldn't be an Anderson film without Murray in it; and so this marks Murray's sixth collaboration with Anderson. Jason Schwartzman is back again, albeit in a very small role (sadly) but I enjoyed his participation anyways. Everyone else here is new in Anderson's universe: Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, even Harvey Keitel is on board here! An amazing cast that makes everything all the more interesting. But by far, I loved the fact that the two main characters Sam and Suzy where played by complete unknowns; I felt like I was getting to know them for the very first time, and they worked so well together, they displayed true emotion and at times, great comedic timing. 

How similar is Moonrise Kingdom to previous Anderson films? Well, for example, we have two extremely intelligent kids running away from home, same as Margot and Richie Tenenbaum ran away from home in The Royal Tenenbaums. Characters like to build tents, because they feel safe in them. Bill Murray plays the drunken unhappy father character he played in Anderson's Rushmore (1998). Parents are unfaithful to each other, same as in Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Families are not perfect, in fact, extremely far from it. The word is dysfunctional. Everyone talks very eloquently and expresses their emotions as if they were wearing them on their sleeves, but then again, this is what makes it all an Anderson film. I hear you thinking: "is there something that makes this one different?" My answer is yes, this is a film about children and it is told from their perspective, so in that sense, it's something that Anderson had not done before. This is not a film about kids who grew up to become messed up adults. These kids are already messed up, and thats what we are here to see. This theme of psychologically troubled children is referred to in a book that Suzy's reading; a book about how to deal with very troubled youths. I love how it explores the fact that what happens in family life can truly mark the life of a child. 

 It's obvious that Anderson's films touch upon very personal themes, and that they reflect his own life, he's even referred to this possibility in The Darjeeling Limited (2007), a film in which one of his characters is writing himself and his life into his stories, but then denies the fact that he does this. The same can be said of Margot Tenenbaum and her plays, which reflect her own disastrous family life as seen in Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), so yes, like most directors, Wes Anderson's films touch upon themes and situations that he calls up from his own life experiences. Again, this is what makes an Anderson film an Anderson film, if you haven't enjoyed his films up to now, then don't bother with Moonrise Kingdom, if on the other had you are a fan, you are going to love it. And if you've never experienced and Anderson film, by all means, indulge in this endearing film. My favorite part of the film is that it takes place on this magical, mystical island that only Wes Anderson could bring to life.   

Rating: 5 out of 5


SFF said...

This was a nice surprise this morning. I'm glad you covered it.

I'm very curious about it and really want to take my teenage boy to it.

I'm assuming it would be something he could enjoy?

Let me add my friend that my son and I are both really intrigued eventhough it looks overly quirky.

I'm also not an Anderson connoisseur so I have no barometer for this kind of film.

Thanks Fran! sff

Franco Macabro said...

Well, the film is all about the exploits of a little kid falling in love for the first time and being all rebellious and all that, so yeah, I think a kid would enjoy it. It's told from the childs perspective, so he might find it interesting in that sense, plus Anderson makes everything look beautiful, hope he likes it!

Quirky is Wes Anderson's middle name. Hey Gordon, I highly recommend you check out The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore, to me those are his finest films, I always have trouble deciding which I like best of the two, they are both the cream of the crop. And now this one....so I guess now I have THREE Anderson films I truly truly love.

SFF said...

Excellent. Good to hear Fran.

I think my son will like this one a lot.

I've also always wanted to see The Royal Tenenbaums. I'll take your recommendations to heart. All the best.

LLJ said...

Right now, Moonrise Kingdom is the best film I've seen in 2012--my opinion it gos without saying.

I don't know if it will have the same pop culture impact as Rushmore did, but it certainly is one of his most charming films and probably his most accessible for Anderson newbies.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree about it being his most accessible and one of his best ones, Rushmore is such a gem though...I never tire of it. So many amazing lines and moments, it's so completely quotable, and Schwartzman is gold on that one, pure gold.

They should do a sequel with him going of to some pompous university for rich intellectuals or something...

Dan O. said...

Nice write-up Fran. Wes Anderson seems like he really brought his A-game to this story and it shows. Everything here just looks beautiful and works out perfectly that it easily has to on my list for best of the year so far. Hopefully Anderson can keep this up.

Franco Macabro said...

This one seems to be going straight to many reviewers top films of the year list, including my own.

SFF said...

Hit me with your take on Anderson's the Life Aquatic!?

I need to find time to catch up with your wrok here. I'm particularly interested in some time to read the recent Prometheus post. UGH! Calgon - take me away.

Franco Macabro said...

I will be doing that soon Sci-Fi fanatic, I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan and have never reviewed the rest of his films! I will be fixing that soon, look forward to more reviews on Anderson's films.

But The Life Aquatic is actually one of his most beautiful films. It's filled with his intelligent characters and beautiful imagery. It's a bit more serious in a way, but never completely, there's always this strange sense of comedy to his films. Characters are serious, but they come off as funny none the less. The Life Aquatic is a very touching film dealing with death and acceptance, highly recommend it. Will be posting a full review of it soon!


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