Friday, June 22, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Get out your awkward conversation and classy music, we're reviewing Moonrise Kingdom!

Moonrise Kingdom is the latest movie from writer/director Wes Anderson, and it's pretty good, if a bit different.  It mostly comes down to whether or not you like Wes Anderson's style. If you like Wes Anderson movies(Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic, Rushmore, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Darjeeling Unlimited, etc.) You'll enjoy this. If not, well...

Set in a small New England town in 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is about two troubled kids, Sam(Jared Gilman) and Suzy(Kara Haywood), decide to run away together for an intimate meeting in the woods. However, Sam's scoutmaster Ward(Edward Norton) and Suzy's parents, Walt(Bill Murray) and Laura(Frances McDormand), go hunting for them.

This has as much style and heart as any of Wes Anderson's previous films. I can't say if it surpasses his previous works(Royal Tenenbaums is his masterpiece, Life Aquatic is my personal fave and Fantastic Mr. Fox is simply perfect), but it's still a lovely, moving and cute story. What's different here is that a lot of the heavy acting comes from the kids.  Adults that act like children and kids that act and talk well beyond their age are a theme for Anderson, and here it's taken to an extreme as the majority of the movie shows the budding love affair between Sam and Suzy.

Sam and Suzy are both interesting characters. They're troubled and different.  Sam is an orphan who's good at tracking but never seems to fit in anywhere. Suzy is a girl who wears eyeshadow, steals books, and has violent tendencies when prodded.  They may be disturbed on their own, but together they fill each other out.  It's kind of weird and awkward how intimate we get with Sam and Suzy, considering how young they are, but on the other hand, it's also kind of cute. The kind of love you usually see in movies is this sudden passion stemming from an initial hatred and that gets old after awhile. It's nice to see a budding romance that's just pure unadulterated love.

This features the typical Wes Anderson cast with a few new comers. Bill Murray steals the show in any scene, but seems to still be playing the sad drunk he was playing in both Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic. Bruce Willis is a nice edition, but also feels exactly like he's playing Bruce WIllis in a Wes Anderson movie. Pobably the best inclusion is Edward Norton. He's a very subtle character actor and fits into the Andersonverse with his quirky scoutmaster.

The setting is beautiful.  Every frame of the movie made me wish for a simpler time of living out in the woods.  Wes Anderson has a knack for beautiful and warm imagery, and this film is no different.  They even have a narrator played by Bob Balaban who intermittently tells the audiance about the nature of the island the characters inhabit.  Seeing the island through Sam and Suzy's eyes gives it a sense of awe as they traverse it perilously.  All this is accompanied by Anderson's classic soundtrack.

Anderson's directing style is one you either love or hate. In a way, it's very anti-climactic. Characters usually say lines very carefully and without emoting. The camera has a slow meaningful way of panning rather than quick cutting for more action. It's nice and enjoyable but I can see why it's not a style for everyone, especially those looking for an action packed summer blockbuster. If you're not into his style, this movie certainly won't change it.

Just because this movie shoots more of kids doesn't mean it's not still adult.  Most of the adult characters are just as messed up, if not more-so, than the "troubled" young teens they're trying to capture.  Suzy's parents' marriage is a sham.  The Scout Master, though his intenions are good, can't keep a hold on his scouts.  And early in the film, the narrator informs us that one of the most destructive storms in the island's history is going to hit in three days time, puttign a time bomb on the search for the kids.  This movie deals with a lot of adult issues like death, orphans, adultery, alienation, and loneliness.

It's not perfect, however.  There's not one non-white actor in the entire film. Not. One. One could argue since it's set on an island in a small New England town in 1965 they're tryign to be authentic, or that that time was so huge in racial integration that they didn't even want to cover it, but still. This is a movie in 2012, and it's pretty damn ridiculous that there's not one black, hispanic, asian, indian or whatever character in a wide release movie.  If this was some kind of crappy romantic comedy with an all-white cast, reguardless of time or place, the first thing I'd call it on was it's lack of diversity.  A movie shouldn't get a slide just becuase it's a director we like or because it's a good movie. Especially because it's a good movie.  I'm really surprised no one else is picking up on this.

THE GOOD: great cast, Wes Anderson movie, Bill Murray, great setting, soundtrack, cinematography, fun to see kids act like adults, cute funny engaging story.

THE BAD: Some may not like Wes Anderson's style, has an all-white cast

THE VERDICT: $$$$ This is a great movie. I'd say it's one of Wes Anderson's best, but his "best" would be all of his movies. It's fun and cute, though you have to like his style.  Still, it can't beat some of his classics, and the fact that this is an all-white cast is terrible.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Basically every other Wes Anderson movie.

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: There's a fight scene between Sam, Suzy and the scout troops looking for them.  It gets pretty violent, though you don't really get to see any of the fight. It's weird to think that these are just kids doing this, but then you think, kids are violent little pricks inherently. Really, what's strange is that they're speaking so eloquently and acting so formal about it.  It says soemthing about how nonsensical fighting is, and how adults are really just very tall kids when you get down to it.

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