25 November 2012

Movies: Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1748122/

Subdued comedy/drama/romance

Time: late summer, 1965. Place: 16 mile-long small island in New England
Sam is a 12 year-old orphan spending his summer with Khaki Scout troop 55. Considered "emotionally disturbed," none of the other kids like him. 12 year-old Suzy lives with her parents and three younger brothers across the island and feels completely misunderstood. Her only friends are her kitten and books she steals from the library. A year earlier Sam met Suzy backstage at a play. After exchanging a few words they started a pen pal friendship.
Sam runs away from the Khaki Scouts (with a reveal straight out of "Shawshank Redemption"), hikes across the island and meets up with Suzy. Together they run away.  Meanwhile the Khaki Scouts, the island police man and Suzy's parents try to track them down and bring them home.

A film by Wes Anderson of "Rushmore," "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," "The Royal Tennenbaums" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" fame. I watched this film solely because it's a Wes Anderson film. I've been a fan of his flicks since "Rushmore" so he gets an automatic watch. I'm usually in a state of mind prepared to like his films. I had expectations, and I wasn't disappointed.

Stars a couple of kids I've never heard of as Sam and Suzy*. The cast includes Bruce Willis as the island police man, Edward Norton as the Khaki Scout Troop 55 leader, Frances McDormand as Suzy's mom, Tilda Swinton as Social Services, and Harvey Keitel as Khaki Scout HQ leader.  That ensemble alone would make any film interesting. Plus Bill Murray (Suzy's dad) and Jason Schwartzman (Khaki Scout Hullabaloo Supplies and Resources manager) are in the cast, of course, as it's a Wes Anderson film. I say "of course" because both are Wes Anderson film regulars.

The film has indie film looks, but they're accomplished in a very polished manner. Certain camera shots harken back to compositions Anderson has developed in his previous films.  But the film's bigger accomplishment is how it looks and feels like a 1965 magazine spread. It's rather a neat effect - with the subdued color palette. It puts the viewer right in the proper era.
The kids deliver a matter-of-fact performance, their lines and actions are delivered more like they are reading a story out loud.  Usually that annoys me, but I think those performances are intentional. After I got used to it I found it contributed to the film's charm. Especially as the two actually get to spend time together and navigate awkward friendship beyond what they've developed as pen pals.
Wes Anderson pretty much captures what it is like to be 12 years old back in the '60s, misunderstood, on the cusp of discovering relationships and meeting a person that's in the same place and just 'gets' you.
Another thing I liked is that the events and performances weren't delivered to be viewed through the lens of 2012's perception, but one more tuned to 1960s-70s childhood. I almost felt nostalgic, so I wonder if folks from generations than mine will have a harder time identifying with the film?

The film has some amusing scenes, some scenes a bit more serious, some are surreal. Even has a thrilling chase sequence or two. It delivers a visual representation of embellished storytelling. There is even a period-appropriate narrator to provide big picture context and he looks like he stepped out of a 60's-era grade school history film. 

Like I said, I have a predilection for Wes Anderson flicks and he hasn't yet disappointed me, even though a couple of his films didn't quite do it for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, the wife bailed early on like she seems to do with most Wes Anderson flicks.  I guess I just like the quirky films more than she.

So, if you've not ever seen a Wes Anderson film this is as good as any to give him a shot. If you like it, check out his others.

* I've seen no mention of the classic Captain and Tennille version of the song "Muskrat Love" being any sort of inspiration for this film, even though the main characters are named "Suzy" and "Sam" and some story plot points could easily be seen as parallel to the song. Probably just accidental. 

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