We've all been there. We've all felt detached at some point, with the need to make some sort of genuine connection. Whether it be as a child, feeling left out of the more popular kids' game of tag or as an on-the-go adult with very little personal time, let alone time to find some smidgeon of companionship with a partner. How about being a child, with multiple siblings, feeling total estrangement from your parents - who are both there, but really aren't? These are all themes explored by indie filmmaker Wes Anderson's latest little film; the quirky, cute and sometimes hilarious Moonrise Kingdom.
Despite being the supreme film buff that I am, it pains me to let you (indie film purists) know that I would be leading you astray, via a bold faced lie, if I sat here and claimed I feel Wes Anderson to be the GOD of all things cinematic. That's simply not true, in my very humble opinion of course. As sarcastic and dry as I can be, nor am I a big fan of his style of humor. However, I completely get it - and on occasion - he'll catch me off guard, having written lines (when delivered properly, by the right actor) that will come off in absolute gut-busting fashion. See Gene Hackman and Danny Glover's kitchen exchange in The Royal Tenenbaums for proof. Moonrise Kingdom is no exception to this rule. Anderson's uncomfortably longer-than-usual takes, awkward scene transitions and character interactions leave you feeling like you're seeing too much past what was originally intended. Like watching a neighbor walk through their front door, only to peek through the side window (not that we've ever done anything that sick...what are we, voyeurs?)...moving on.
In Moonrise Kingdom, we follow a 1965 New England Boy Scout Troup, headed by Scout Master Ward (played brilliantly simple by Edward Norton) as he sets out with his group of gangly boys to find young scout Sam (the talented Jared Gilman) who has apparently given up and gone AWOL, having fallen in love with little, eerily dark Suzy (Kara Hayward), with whom he feels a genuine enough connection to flee. Needless to say, on a small (but larger than you might think) island, two missing 11 year olds can be cause for panic, despite Sam's "commendable" scouting abilities. Ward and his khaki scouts, flanked by Suzy's worn down, together-for-the-kids, attorney parents (Bill Murray and Francis McDormand), Bruce Willis' subtly hilarious Captain Sharp and Tilda Swinton as Social Services, who is disturbingly hellbent on retrieving abandoned children, turn the small town upside down looking for the runaways.
At each and every turn, we find someone trying to make a connection with someone else. Either that, or fleeing any situation where a connection hasn't been or can't quite be made, in utter desperation. There is simply no denying Anderson has a phenomenal eye, using unconventional methods of cutting - as opposed to the 180 degree line when shooting two people in conversation - he'll shoot a medium angle of both subjects perpendicular to the action or cut back and forth, straight on, between the subjects and their interaction. It's completely awkward, but really allows the viewer to access the full emotional range given by the actors, who are all wonderful here. Particularly Gilmore and Hayward, who anchor the film in innocence. Seeing the sense of urgency, created out of the burning desire to be wanted, reminds us of just how fast kids of today are growing up and becoming "old souls" too far ahead of their time. Let's face it, half of the technological breaches of the world, post 2000 have been accomplished by prepubescents who haven't stopped wetting the bed or watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. While most parents past 35 still don't know what "LOL" means. Kingdom also happens to come off as a call to parents to be more parental, taking more of an interest in their children and their need for that support structure, lest they run off and attempt to elope at the ripe age of 12...living in a tent on the rocky surface of some small, coastal New England town.
Despite stretches of some slow pacing (par for the course in Anderson's films), with a couple of pretty hilarious cameos from indie faves Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman, as well as a great musical selection, Moonrise Kingdom is innocent fun with a good moral message for everyone. Having the film based in simpler time, where the very same issues being dealt with by people today don't really differ all that much, speaks to Anderson's brilliance as a filmmaker. The juxtaposition offers just enough contrast to make you really pay attention to the things that need tending to in your own life. While not quite as funny as some of his previous offerings, this is another solid character study, masked in a quirky innocence.
3/5 Taped Glasses
Nate 'The Great" Smith
Owner/Author, Geeks On Movies
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