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Moonrise Kingdom (A Movie Review)


Moonrise Kingdom

Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel, Larry Pine, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jake Ryan, Neal Huff, Charlie Kilgore, Tommy Nelson and L.J. Foley.

Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola.

Directed by Wes Anderson.

Distributed by Focus Features. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Wes Anderson’s movies cannot be mistaken for anyone else’s work. His movies have an eccentric vibe, a complete underplaying of huge emotions, a repressed and stunted purity of belief and passion. 

He tells big stories shrunk down to small. Big wants and needs expressed with no external want or need. Love as something that is inevitable, so a distracted curiosity replaces unbridled lust. Even unbridled lust is something that tends to be the source of melancholic dismay rather than animalistic urges. 

Try to imagine what the Coen Brothers films would be like if they were terribly repressed WASPs and didn’t have a taste for sudden, explosive violence, and then you have a vague idea of the Wes Anderson template. Anderson has gained acclaim for his valentines to subdued lives of great wonder – including Rushmore, The Royal Tanenbaums, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited and the animated The Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

Some people find his films brilliantly ironic views of human frailty. Others find his films unbearably twee.

I tend to belong to the second camp.

Everything in Moonrise Kingdom was so aggressively low-key that it nearly lulled me to sleep.

It is not impossible for Anderson to find the feelings in his movies – though to this day only Rushmore has escaped the arch emotionless feel of Moonlight Kingdom. Anderson’s tongue is planted so firmly in his cheek fourteen years into his career that all his characters and situations feel cartoonish. 

Moonrise Kingdom is his look back at his childhood (continuing the Coen comparison, it is essentially Anderson’s version of A Serious Man).The movie takes place in a repressed backwoods area of New England in which the entirety of the area appears to revolve around the local boy scouts (though, pointedly, this is not The Boy Scouts of America, it is a barely disguised variation on the group.).

Through some odd twist of fate that I must admit I don’t quite understand, an unhappy scout (Jared Gillman) falls in love with an unhappy local schoolgirl (Kara Hayward) and the two twelve-year-olds decide to run away together and get married. We never quite get why these two are so sure they are destined to be together – they don’t even seem to particularly like each other – but they succumb to some odd sense of destiny.

In the meantime, the local adults, including the sad sack Sheriff (Bruce Willis), the sad sack scout leader (Edward Norton), the girl’s sad sack parents (Bill Murray and Joel Coen’s wife Frances McDormand, hmmm…) and the sad sack local troop create a sad sack posse to attempt to track down the two kids before they… what? Get married? Have sex? Share pictures? Feed her kitten? Crack a smile?

Who knows? Who really cares? I had lost interest long before then.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: October 16, 2012.

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