Tuesday, July 17, 2012
STARS: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
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 +