Monday, February 11, 2013

Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by Wes Anderson.
2012. Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.
Jared Gilman
Kara Hayward
Bruce Willis
Edward Norton
Bill Murray
Frances McDormand
Tilda Swinton
Jason Schwartzman
Harvey Keitel
Bob Balaban

One morning, Scout Master Ward (Norton) awakes to find one of his troops missing. Sam (Gilman) has run away from the campsite. Ward promptly alerts the local authorities and the boy’s parents. It turns out Sam is an orphan and now that he’s had another incident, his foster father no longer wants him. Still, Ward and top cop Cpt. Sharp (Willis) begin a search of the island they’re on with the help of Troop 55, the unit under Ward’s command. A short while later, Suzy (Hayward) runs away from home, much to the chagrin of her parents Laura (McDormand) and Walt Bishop (Murray). By the way, the Bishops have an interesting dynamic going with Cpt. Sharp. What we know before any of the adults in the movie is that Sam and Suzy met up and are trying to disappear together. The search for them both ensues.

In typical Wes Anderson fashion, Moonrise Kingdom is a quirky film that looks different from other movies the first instant you lay eyes on it. He does something that’s almost unheard of in today’s cinematic environment, especially the American market. His movies feel like a collection of still shots with short stretches of people performing minimal movements linking them together. This is no exception. Due to the location and the lush scenery it provides, this technique works brilliantly. The dialogue is similarly sparse. There are no big, showy speeches or shouting matches even when emotions are obviously high. The trick is every feeling needed to hook us into the picture is more than ably conveyed. The actors do a wonderful job with body language and facial expression without over acting or mugging for the camera. Of course, even that comes back to Anderson and the type of performances he coaxes out of his cast. In his hands, a blank stare speaks volumes. It’s subtle storytelling at its finest.

Still, MK would be lost if the story it were telling weren’t interesting. Fortunately, it is. The nucleus is a tender story of young love. Floating in the plasma around it are other interesting things. We get a look at how twelve year old boys interact, complete with overblown machismo. There is also how adults view and deal with kids in general, those they see as troubled youth in particular. Finally, there is a marriage at the crossroads. All of these are handled without excessive exposition or manipulation. It all adds up to a fun, if a bit oddly executed film.

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