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 Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom

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Donald McKinney

Posts : 24262
Join date : 2008-07-21

PostSubject: Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom   Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:50 pm

Wes Anderson has always wanted to be a filmmaker since he was a boy, when he used to direct his brothers in little Super 8 films he made in and around his neighbourhood. But, he finally broke into films with Bottle Rocket (1996), which was based on a short film he and Owen Wilson made in 1992. Anderson got very lucky with Bottle Rocket, as the short film had caught the attention of Oscar-winning director James L. Brooks, who got it set up at Columbia Pictures, who had had similar luck launching the careers of John Singleton and Robert Rodriguez. It worked, and Bottle Rocket led to a deal at Touchstone Pictures, with whom Anderson made a trio of visually different and incredibly kooky dramedies, which won acclaim and cult success. Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004). Heavily influenced by French New Wave and the rise of Indian cinema in the 1960's, he's managed to make them successful to audiences, he even went to India for The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and took went stop-motion to take on a British classic with Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). But, for his latest film Moonrise Kingdom, he's gone back to the standard of Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums. It's warm, nostalgic, funny and beautifully made. It's everything we've all come to expect from Wes Anderson, and a little more.

New Penzance Island, 1965, just off the coast of New England. Orphaned 12 year old Khaki scout Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) has vanished from his peaceful if offbeat camp, much to the concern of Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton), he somehow escaped during the night and has made his way by canoe across New Penzance. Sam has fallen for Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), and has had a crush on her after seeing her at a local theatrical rendition of a Benjamin Britten opera. Meanwhile, a search for Sam has started after Ward informs local Sheriff Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), who goes door to door on this peaceful little island looking for Sam. But, after visiting the home of Suzy's parents Walter (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), it's discovered that Suzy is also missing, and Laura discovers letters that show she was planning to run away with Sam. Meanwhile, Sam and Suzy have met up and are now trekking it by foot across the Island, with Suzy's luggage and small kitten in tow. They find refuge on a small cove where they make camp, and Sam wants to paint Suzy, but the scouts and the law and Suzy's parents are closing in fast. But, true love will never keep them apart.

It's a nostalgic film about first loves and crushes, although it's seen through Anderson's eyes. It's 60's setting is low key but very colourful. Anderson has a good eye for visuals. (Note one phone call to Sam's Orphanage, the toaster and the phone there are both yellow.) It's a very simple story, but the way Anderson goes about telling it is anything but simple. It's juxtaposed for the first third of the film, and then it has stop motion map bits, with a helpful narrator (Bob Balaban) added in giving pieces to camera about the history of New Penzance, and helping with plot points and character development. There are Anderson's usual touches of surreal humour, including the very tall treehouse and the books Suzy has brought along on her travels with Sam, including one of her mothers, Coping With The Very Troubled Child. At it's heart, it's a fairy tale done through the eyes of two star crossed lovers. It's a very sweet and nostalgic film done with a great sense of innocence and imagination. There are few directors that can do that, but Anderson's films are instantly recognisable, and this is a joy and a pleasure to watch.

Anderson has also assembled a huge ensemble for this film, some big names and one or two of Anderson's usual repertory company. Bruce Willis plays against type here, as a lonely man just looking for someone to love, and he underplays it with subtlety. No wisecracks as he usually does, it's maybe the biggest departure he's made since Twelve Monkeys. Bill Murray is also good as the eccentric father to 3 boys and 1 troubled girl, who ends up with black eyes and other injuries, while Frances McDormand is a mystery as the wife who ends up in the police car for late night chats with Willis' Sharp, and calls her family to dinner via a loudspeaker. This is a marriage in trouble, but they stick together for the sake of their children. Edward Norton has some of the best fun in ages as the happy-go-lucky Scout Master, Norton looks like he's having fun in the role too, like he did with Death To Smoochy. There's also cameos from Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman as neighbouring Scout Cousin Ben, Tilda Swinton as the flame haired Social Services, and Harvey Keitel making a cameo as Scout Commander Pierce, (it's funny as the Scouts in the film are portrayed as Army Platoons.) It's a great ensemble, but they're nearly outplayed by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, who add a kooky and quirky kind of romance to the proceedings, but it's a romance that's innocent and sweet, nothing nasty or dodgy about it. It's what most 12 year old's go through with girls, but Anderson adds quirks to this relationship, including painting and books.

It's funny how films like this can creep up on you and take you by surprise. It's a very sweet, tender film. Done with Anderson's usual visual style, from symmetrical camera work to warm, sunny colours. It's effects done with models and weird jump cuts, (someone being injured with scissors has a weird edit). It's not a film for everyone, the eccentric nature of the romance in the film will not be everyone's cup of tea, it's hardly mainstream, even if it's cast is. But, it's got a European flavour about it, as does many of Anderson's films. Moonrise Kingdom is a sort of return to basics for Anderson, after going underwater (The Life Aquatic), to India (The Darjeeling Limited) and animation (Fantastic Mr. Fox). For all of it's fantastical qualities and eccentricities, it's surprisingly down to earth in places. But, it's a good meditation on the growing pains we've all faced as well grow older into adolescence, the crushes we have, the pains we feel, the things people do for love. It's got a very original location, with some lovely, warm camerawork by Anderson's regular DP Robert Yeoman and a warm score by Alexandre Desplat. Anderson is a true American original, with a keen eye for visuals and creating quirky characters and quirkier worlds.
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