June 25, 2012

To the Movies: Moonrise Kingdom

Well, I didn't spend the entire weekend in the movie theater, but I did go see Moonrise Kingdom and Brave. And they were both completely fantastic. Today I'll discuss Moonrise Kingdom, and tomorrow Brave.

Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Bill Murray, Frances MacDormand, Bruce Willis, and introducing Kara Hayward and Jared Gillman
Review // Showtimes

Hepburn asked me last week: Do you ever get the impression that Wes Anderson starts with his crazy movie posters and works backwards? Like he says, "Let's put Ben Stiller in a tracksuit" or, "Let's put Bill Murray in a stocking cap and a submarine," and then makes the movie to fit that? To which I responded: YES.

That is my one real complaint about his films: his aesthetic vision is always better than his narrative. No matter how good the story line, the look is better. But image is not story. (This is part of why I thought Fantastic Mr. Fox was his best film; it's an adaptation of an already fantastic story.) I'll gladly put Moonrise Kingdom at the top of the list, now.

Set in 1965 on the fictional New England island, New Penzance, the movie is about Suzy and Sam. Sam is an orphan, who says exactly what he's thinking (and therefore doesn't make friends very easily). Sam's foster home is pretty horrid, and the other scouts hate him. Suzy is a sad watcher; troubled, but wise enough to be aware that she is unable to control her anger.

Yet, when Sam and Suzy meet at the annual Church production of Noye's Fludde (by Benjamin Britten--whose music was clearly one of Anderson's sources of inspiration for this film), there is a spark. They write to each other over the year, and make plans to escape together. As Myrna summed it up: on that journey they find love, though they've never known love before.

And that is the real insight of the film. When Sam and Suzy run away, they send the island into a chaotic search. Bruce Willis (the police-man), and Edward Norton (the scout-master) are brilliant: they are not prospering, and they are without love. And they both want to root for the kids--they feel for the kids--even though their duty is clear. Meanwhile, Suzy's parents--Bill Murray and Frances MacDormand--are completely indifferent to each other; their worlds orbit around each other, but never touch. The film is, in many ways, a look at what practicality and experience ought to do in the face of innocence and love.

The film is delightful and wise and real--despite it's conscious aesthetic and faded-Polaroid look. And it is very funny: Anderson knows exactly when to go over the top of ridiculousness and when to be restrained and dignified. As usual, the music was kicking. And the producers have set up an 8tracks channel with several playlists dedicated to each character.  Listen here.

1 comment:

  1. I love your review, and especially your critique that image is not story. While I think The Life Aquatic is my all-time favourite, I think this one actually made me laugh out loud the most. And Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman in the scouts uniforms? Too delicious. Bruce Willis with glasses and a wispy combover? Can't even handle it. I think one of my favourite lines is from him - "I can’t argue against anything you’re saying. But then again I don’t have to, because you’re 12 years old."