Moonrise Kingdom: Hit or Heartbreaker?

   

Wes Anderson‘s new film boasts an all-star cast, sardonic wit and plenty of retro sets. The question is– did it win you over? Take the poll at the bottom of this post to let me know what you think!

     With stars like Bruce Willis and Bill Murray leading the cast of Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, the eclectic director continues to gain mainstream notoriety. The movie tells the story of two young misfits, which is no surprise, considering that most of Anderson’s films are about misfits. We can all relate to the sad-sack twelve year old that gets picked last for dodgeball, sports an frizzy mane of hair or pees herself a little when she gets over-excited talking to her crush at the school football game. Not that I know what any of that feels like.

     The fresh twist that Anderson brings to the coming-of-age theme is his focus on the tension between adulthood and childhood. He often attributes adult characteristics to children in his films and vice versa, therefore leveling the playing field and reminding usthat we’re capable of both great solemnity and tremendous temper tantrums. (Moonrise Kingdom Example: Bill Murray shirtlessly waddling out of the house with an axe to go “chop down a tree,” while his butt crack peaks out over his striped pajama bottoms).

     As I was saying, in Moonrise Kingdom two misfit twelve-year-olds with emotional problems become pen-pals after meeting at a church production of Noah’s Ark. Young Suzy harbors a love of fantasy literature, smears garish blue eye makeup across her face (good attention to detail, Wes) and occasionally steals or assaults other children when the mood strikes her. Fellow outcast Sam is a member of the “Khaki Scouts” and an orphan who refuses to remove his coonskin cap for most of the film

     The action centers on the pair’s runaway attempt and the ensuing chaos. The result is a neurotic love story backed by anxious symphony music and an amiably militant troupe of pseudo-boy-scouts. Camp Ivanhoe, the scout base camp, is one of the funniest environments in the movie and Edward Norton does a fabulous job playing overzealous Scout Master Ward.

     Some of the best moments of the film are dramatically acted children’s scenes parodying traditional love, fugitive and war stories. The frailty of the children elicits a feeling of helplessness in audience members, even when the children face their problems with confidence. Plus, there are lots of pretty colors and nostalgic 1950s costumes.

     Once again, Anderson brings us the story of a cast of characters who are in over their heads and up against insurmountable odds. However, they put themselves in those situations by being vastly ambitious and wild dreamers. Perhaps that is the most appealing aspect of his films. The characters always hold out for their holy grail; their Hitchcock suitcase. It is the resilient dreaming that gives his films their winsome quality, making them appear as modern-day fables.

     Though this film doesn’t move me the way that The Darjeeling Limited does or surprise me the way that Royal Tenenbaums does, it’s hard to deny the outspoken hope in Anderson’s work. His understated flicks always feature primary colors and pretty, clean-cut sets in contrast to the somewhat scrambled lives of his characters. This movie is no exception.

     Bottom Line: I liked this movie but would probably watch it at home. There were a few great comedic moments, but also few surprises. I enjoyed the movie but I wouldn’t call it a home run. Despite this, I don’t know if a home run is ever exactly what Wes Anderson is aiming for. He’s more likely to hit a grounder as a distraction and then run away to join the circus. In that sense, I’d say that he’s accomplished his goal.

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