Monday, June 11, 2012

A Reel Review: MOONRISE KINGDOM



You always know what you are going to get in a Wes Anderson film; quirky characters, deadpanned deliveries, unique sense of color, and a recurring cast which usually includes Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. His newest, MOONRISE KINGDOM, certainly has all of that and a little bit more. The question going into it is if Anderson’s trademarked style actually serves a purpose other than letting us know that this is a Wes Anderson film.
Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are two adolescent lovers who decide to run away together. They are pursued by Sam’s scoutmaster (Ed Norton), the police chief (Bruce Willis), Social Services (Tilda Swinton), and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), while in the meantime a hurricane bears down on the island.

MOONRISE KINGDOM is Wes Anderson’s take on the Romeo and Juliet story; it is the tale of two young lovers being pursued by other forces bent on keeping them apart. A bit familiar, yes. But here it really works. KINGDOM is written in such a way that the two main characters of Sam and Suzy are not just na├»ve children; they both come from troubled backgrounds which has given them an adult perspective on life. Through a series of clever flashbacks, their stories are very well fleshed out, and it is a simple and joyful thing to root for them both.
Anderson’s unique style is well suited for this type of story. There is a genuine feeling of heart and soul through it all, and even the characters which are in a villainous role are fun to get wrapped up in. There is a visual brilliance constantly at work; the film is a marvel to look at but at the same time it magically reveals Anderson’s (and his character’s) view at the world. MOONRISE KINGDOM is also Anderson’s most daring; the two 13-year old lovers perform a few things on camera which may shock and/or upset a few people. It’s innocent enough, but also new territory for Anderson.

The cast is outstanding not only in name, but in performance. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward somehow manage to have great chemistry together for a couple of sprats. The best part about the ensemble cast is that everyone really seems to embrace their roles. Bruce Willis disappears into a nerdy policeman, and Ed Norton has no problem wearing nut-hugger hiker shorts. Extended cameos by Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, and Jason Schwartzman are quite pleasant and never feel distracting.
The finale flirts with a true Romeo and Juliet tragedy, only to pull back and wrap things up happily. It’s a relief that the film does end on a happy note, for MOONRISE KINGDOM is a film that provokes smiles and charm from head to tail. Yes, you know it's a Wes Anderson movie, but one that feels fresh and fun. Fantastic film.

BOTTOM LINE: See it

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