Friday, June 15, 2012

Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom


By this point, you probably already know whether or not you're a fan of Wes Anderson. He is one of those directors, like Scorcese or Allen, whose distinct personal style is both omnipresent and easily recognizable in his works. I, for one, AM a Wes Anderson fan and despite knowing what kind of tricks to expect, Moonrise Kindgom still delighted and surprised me.

It is, in short, the tale of two young lovers who run away to begin a life together in the woods. Like every Andersonian character, each comes complete with their particular bundle of quirks. The girl, Suzy, who sees the world from a pair of binoculars hung around her neck. The boy, Sam, an orphaned kakhi scout in a coon's tail hat.

Anderson writes his characters like he builds his sets, exquisitely detailed dioramas that are intended to be scene from an unchanging, 2-dimensional angle. In Moonrise Kindgom, you get ample examples of both (Tilda Swinton's character is named, simply, Social Services). Anderson pans side to side, sweeping through intentionally-apparent set hallways or tracking Scout Master Edward Nortan as he walked, sideways, checking on his scouts at camp Ivanhoe, set in the summer on the island of New Penzance (doesn't exist). Occasionally, Seinfeld and Christopher Guest mainstay Bob Balaban steps in as narrator to give us nuggets of wisdom and to make sure we're not missing anything.

The plot? I already told you. It's about two young lovers who run away. Everything else presented is merely a tangent or extension of the whimsical world that Anderson creates as a metaphor for the simplicity and sincerity that is young love -- if there is such a thing. The actual goings on are all but absurd, elevated more-so by the crushing seriousness given to each scene by the characters. In flashback we see the evolution of the main characters' romance, jumping back and forth between written correspondence one-half of a sentence at a time. We track the progress of their journey through the woods not as a linear narrative but in small vignettes as they encounter obstacles, pause to inventory their supplies or make camp for the night, dancing in their underwear or reading to each other in the darkness.

It blends the same infectiously carefree adventure mood of The Life Aquatic with the pseudo-surrealism of Fantastic Mr. Fox. It makes you want to find a person to love, or one that you already do, and head off into the hills, map and compass in hand. You forget, except for sporadic, winking reminders, that these are just children and that they could never have expected to last long on their own, could they?

Moonrise will not elevate you to profound questions of the human soul. It will not expose the seedy underbelly of the human condition or challenge the moral decay of society. It does not bother itself with gritty realism.

It is a delight. Pure, simple and innocent like ice cream on a hot day. A blend of exquisite dialogue and heartwarming visuals dipped in pure charm. You will laugh, out loud, and often you won't be entirely sure why, nor will you care. A

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