Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Rated: PG-13

STARS: Jared Gilman,  Kara Hayward,  Bruce Willis,  Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand,  Tilda Swinton
DIRECTOR:  Wes Anderson
GENRE: Comedy

You've got your quirky film characters, and then you've got your quirky films, and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom--a sepia-toned homage to young love--fits the latter category. 

Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) are two twelve year old social misfits who carry through on a pact to run away with each other. Sam is a would-be orphan who has  worn out his welcome with his foster parents, and has just "resigned" from his Khaki Scout troop because he feels he doesn't fit in . Suzy is a surly problem child in a family of parents who are bored out of their gourd with each other (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).

Their flight is largely symbolic, because they are on an island off the coast New England, and it's not like they won't eventually be sniffed out by police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) or the gaggle of Scout Master Ward's charges who are hot on the missing  couple's tail. Willis is playing against type here--as a sensitive kind of guy with a heart, and it's refreshing to see. 

Any film that Bill Murray is in, I'm expecting  him to be the dominant presence, (unless it's a true cameo) displaying his deadpan wit and charm to full advantage. But that takes a back seat in Moonrise Kingdom to the two young stars and Edward Norton's adultolescent Scoutmaster Ward. 

So Sam and Suzy traverse the island, setting up camp and relying on Sam's scouting skills to survive, while exploring  their puppy love in innocently provocative ways. But there's a big storm a-brewing off the coast,  creating a renewed sense of urgency amongst the adults to locate the runaways. The storm could be a metaphor for  all of the institutionalized societal and parental forces forever poised to quash amorous exploration by the young  with an iron fist. 

While  Sam and Suzy are precociously testing the waters of adulthood, some of the grownups in Moonrise Kingdom are cartoonishly dorky and not terribly mature. But the story is set in 1965--a time when most adults WERE still pretty dorky--plaid pants and all.

And while the  film is listed as a comedy, the humor is so unswervingly  deadpan that nary a  chuckle was heard from the patrons at the showing I attended,  though I think most must have been sitting there, like myself,  with a bemused grin throughout. And any film where you haven't correctly guessed what is about to come next goes a long way toward winning me over.

The only misstep, in my opinion, is the magic realism  that literally strikes  from the heavens  in the latter part of the film, turning a tale that was still plausible--if unlikely--into the realm of a cartoon where Wile E. Coyote gets his ass blown up by a bomb, or falls off a cliff,  but jumps back up a second later no worse for the wear.

Tilda Swinton has a turn as the demanding and uncompromising bureaucrat known only as "Social Services," who wants to nab Sam and stick him in an orphanage. Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel also appear. 

With a creative and  imaginative soundtrack by Benjamin Britten.

Grade:  B +



  1. Nice review, but I'll probably pass on this cinematic attempt. Although I'm a fan of Bill Murray, Bruce Willis gets no points in my book...perhaps I'll wait for the DVD at the library!

  2. I think you'd like Willis in this one--he looks, and acts his age (57). But if you're in no hurry, of course, the library should have it in...oh, two or three years!

  3. I like the term "adultolescent.". I haven't heard that term before. I usually dislike magical realism. Even though you gave the film a B+, I find myself less anxious to see it than after reading about it on a movie site. I think I'll wait for it to hit Netflix instead of rushing to see it in the theatre.

  4. I found this film enchanting and a bit slow paced all at once... I think it benefited immensely from the big screen experience. you're description of edward norton's character was spot on - adultescent (can I use it if I give you credit)??

  5. ARLENE: It will certainly be cheaper to see from Netflix, and no inflated popcorn prices.

    ELSIE: "Adultolescent"...isn't that a great term? You don't have to credit me, because I didn't make it up, but it's not a word you find in common usage.

  6. I ended up seeing Moonrise tonight. I was bowled over by it. The magical realism worked for me. My friend and I laughed outloud a number of times, though I agree with you that this film wasn't in any sense a comedy. (Why on earth would it be listed as such?) I agree with you about the over-the-top lightening scene. That should have hit the editing floor before the movie was released. I'd rate the movie an A.

  7. ARLENE: I probably would have given it an "A" except for that particular scene. And yeah, they seem to be using the term "comedy" loosely here--but like I say, it's deadpan. So "deadpan," in fact, it's almost deceased!

  8. Hi Tim,
    I saw this one today and really enjoyed it! I love the way Wes Anderson frames every shot as if it were a painting and the music is fantastic. I guess the humour is more suited to an Australian audience as the whole cinema was laughing out loud for rather a lot of the duration. Edward Norton was great and the young red head kid who got stabbed cracked me up. :)
    I'm a real fan of Anderson's so I suppose I'll always find something to love.

  9. CLAIRE: That's quite interesting how your Australian audience reacted to the film. Perhaps you are more attuned to the subtleties of humor than we dense Americans are!

    1. Nah, you American folks know humour and can be very funny too! I think it's the kind of humour Aussies (and Kiwis too FYI; they love a bit of deadpan) are used to. Deadpan, sarcasm and irony work really well over here. :D