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Moonrise Kingdom
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by Brett Gallman

"I always wanted to be a Khaki scout."
5 stars

A film as rapturous, magnificent, and affecting as “Moonrise Kingdom” shouldn’t feel so effortless. With his latest film, Wes Anderson presses his auteurist stamp with gentle authority and a firm, unironic conviction. This is unmistakably a Wes Anderson film, an adorable reflection on the pangs of love--both love and old--that just might be his best work to date.

Anderson’s films have frequently basked in the glow of retro-nostalgia, but this is his first proper period piece. Set in an acute version of 1965 that grounds the film in a warm Americana, “Moonrise Kingdom” presents a New England island that feels like a handcrafted Anderson enclave, full of whimsy, quirk, and optimism. Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are the island misfits who fall in love at first sight and conspire to run away together.--he abandons his scout troop, while she runs away from her troubled home and her parents’ collapsing marriage.

These two are on the precipice of adolescence, a fact that never eludes Anderson. Sam and Suzy may be typically Anderson-esque in their heightened maturity, but their interactions are marked by an innocence that diffuses throughout “Moonrise Kingdom.” They traverse the island’s rocky terrain with dogged and doe-eyed determination, their more intimate moments fluttering with the excitement of young love; even their lone sexual moment is achingly awkward and cute, as the two are completely attuned with one another. Anderson’s child actors are incredible. The bespectacled and doughy Gilman is delightfully odd but good-natured; Sam has been diagnosed as emotionally disturbed, but, as his own foster parent notes, he means well. Suzy is a similarly misunderstood holy terror borne of neglect, a heartbreaker infused with a pouty severity by Hayward.

Assembled around them is a wonderful ensemble. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton form empathetic centers that find both actors in unguarded roles as the adults who can identify with the pre-teen protagonists. The former is the island sheriff that appreciates the purity of Sam’s love, while the latter is the kindly scout master with a warm, schoolteacher inflection. Anderson refuses to cast judgment on this character especially--here’s Edward Norton giving a completely earnest performance as a man-child who might be taking his duties a little too seriously, complete with short shorts and an absurd ranger hat, and it is completely heartening. The same is true of Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel, who appear in similarly absurd roles but never flinch. It’d be easy to see these performances as being against type, but they’re too natural to draw such attention, as the actors easily slide into their roles.

Anderson regular Bill Murray also makes a remarkable appearance as Suzy’s father, a man that represents the resistant, cynical current in “Moonrise Kingdom.” Since his notions of love have become perverted by his wife’s (Frances McDormand) affair, he takes it out on the two young lovers. Murray’s subtle performance paints a brilliantly layered portrait of heartbreak and resentment that elides the one note parental villainy typically reserved for types of films.

And then there’s the Khaki Scout Troop ensemble, a ragtag group of kids each with their own quirk; it feels like Anderson could concoct a series of films centered around this crew that feels made for adventure stories. “Moonrise Kingdom” isn’t unlike all of Andersons’s films in this respect because it feels like he’s just broken off a little chunk of this fully formed world and delivered one of many tall tales you might encounter within. Even the landscapes, captured with earthy elegance by Robert Yeoman’s 16mm photography, are engrossing, breathtaking, and transporting.

That the film is so well-mannered is no surprise, nor are the stylistic tics: the Brechtian staging, the visual symmetry, the pastel palette, the overbearing preciousness; “Moonrise Kingdom” is a film that sometimes feels so exquisitely put together that it almost feels fragile, as if the slightest breeze might topple the whole thing. Which is not to say it’s slight or weightless--in fact, the film jets to the top of the Anderson canon with an incredible sense of humanity and gravitas. By now, at the age of 43, it might be easy for Anderson to relent to self-awareness of his own shtick or even cynicism, but “Moonrise Kingdom” is a thoroughly sincere and funny film delivered with the director’s trademark droll wit and deadpan charm.

“Moonrise Kingdom” swirls up both literal and metaphorical storms, with the gale force winds and turbulent waters that eventually strike the shores New Penzance reflecting the inner turmoil that’s beset the island’s inhabitants. To keep from drowning in the flood of self-loathing, jaded adulthood that’s in pursuit, Sam and Suzy craft an ark out of their own love for each other--really, it’s that simple and pure, but it’s escalated to Biblical proportions as “Moonrise Kingdom” becomes something of a mythical bildungsroman tale of a puppy love so strong that it even conquers the elements.

Like many great coming-of-age tales, the film is set at the twilight of summer (Labor Day weekend), only there’s no bittersweet sense of loss or transition here; instead, Anderson leaves us with a storybook assurance that Sam and Suzy will always have their Moonrise Kingdom. Anderson’s refusal to even imagine a world where the bastards win is endearing, heartfelt, and helps “Moonrise Kingdom” resonate to sublime depths.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23295&reviewer=429
originally posted: 06/30/12 14:05:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2012 Festival de Cannes series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/06/13 Langano Should of won best picture. 5 stars
10/16/12 Lissa Utterly irritating from start to finish 1 stars
10/02/12 Katherine Stukel Loved it! Charming & fun. A must see. 5 stars
8/04/12 Monday Morning A bit too cartoony for me but not bad. 3 stars
8/04/12 Chris. Fun. Creates another world, Wes is good at that. Looking forward to seeing again 5 stars
7/09/12 Andy Great movie and good first love story 5 stars
7/08/12 Ming Love this Blue Lagoon like story. Best film of the year 5 stars
7/01/12 Marty Minor roles get a little too much credit in these reviews. Unique movie tho, fun directing. 4 stars
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  25-May-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Oct-2012



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