Monday, July 2, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom: Odd & Beautiful

There is only one sentence that can adequately describe Moonrise Kingdom. It is a Wes Anderson movie. You either already know what that means or once you watch a Wes Anderson movie, you'll know what that means for the rest of your life.

From the opening scene, Anderson's style is vividly obvious, from the cinematography, to the color scheme, to the setting and general feeling of strangeness. While his movies are ostensibly set in our world, they always feel like an alternate universe where things are just a little too beautiful and surreal than reality would permit. Moonrise Kingdom is set in 1965 and tells the story of two twelve-year olds who fall in love and run away together. The boy is being chased by his scout troop led by the hapless Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton in a charmingly bumbling role) while the girl is sought by her lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, of course). Despite the all-star adults in the cast, including turns from Bruce Willis as the clueless Captain of the Island Police, Tilda Swinton as the heartless Social Services, and Jason Schwartzman as weirdo Cousin Ben, this is a movie that belongs to the child actors. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward conduct their romance with comical but mature earnestness, which often leads to some unnerving scenes. At other moments, the boys of Scout Troop 55 can start to resemble something out of Lord of the Flies, and this movie certainly has moments that are oddly violent and disturbing for a Wes Anderson film.

The plot meanders in an absurd and typically Andersonian fashion and you find yourself wholeheartedly rooting for these unexpected lovers despite their occasionally psychopathic tendencies. The score by Alexandre Desplat is reminiscent of Fantastic Mr. Fox but is otherwise sidelined by the Benjamin Britten classical pieces that punctuate the movie. But most importantly, this movie is a visual treat that makes you feel like you've stepped into a dream for 90 minutes.

Wes Anderson is a filmmaker whose work is meant to be seen on the big screen. His movies are abstract paintings that make absolute sense when you're looking at them but are impossible to explain afterwards. All I can say is that you need to watch Moonrise Kingdom. Because once you do, at least you'll know what it means to be a Wes Anderson movie.

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