Yes, kids, I’m on a roll. Actually it’s part of a plan–try to enjoy some more entertainment time, especially through this month of many things to do, cook, buy, and wrap. Plus, I really want to get more than one Netflix DVD per month or two.
Today’s movie is Moonrise Kingdom, and for those who have seen his work, the only words of review I really need to say are Wes Anderson. This is because there are those who love Wes Anderson, and there are those who don’t. I can’t say I love his work, because sometimes he takes things too far and tries too hard to make his films too off-beat, but I do usually like his style and quiet, sarcastic tone. The problem, I think, is that sometimes he makes a simple story too complicated.
This is not the case with Moonrise Kingdom.
The film is about a pair of kids–teens, really–who fall in love via correspondence in the mid ’60s after Sam, an orphaned Khaki Scout (think Boy Scout, but taken to the odd extreme), sees Suzy (a bored and somewhat introverted daughter of a pair of lawyers) in a play on a quiet island in New England. Through the course of their correspondence, they decide to run away and start a new life together. The island isn’t that large and, of course, they are eventually found by the sheriff, family, and Khaki Scout search party. But after they’re found the first time, everyone finds out just how difficult Sam’s life really is after not realizing he’s an orphan who was just kicked out by his last foster family and work to make his life as good as they can. All of this, by the way, is set against a major storm that is preparing to move over the island.
Having seen nearly all of Wes Anderson’s films, I have to say that this is one of his best–it’s really well paced, gives you the emotion and humor you need to appreciate the subject matter, and doesn’t get bogged down at all in telling the story. Unlike The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, it’s comparatively airy and happy, and compared with Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited, it’s fun without being overly silly.
All of the acting here is very good–simple, straight-forward, and not overstated at all–which is pretty normal for an Anderson film.
What isn’t normal for his films is that while everyone in his films are just a quarter turn past normal, there’s usually one or two characters who are further out there than everyone else. But in this film, everyone is at about the same level of craziness. And because everyone is odd, everyone appears normal within the story. The sheriff (Bruce Willis) is tired and lonely and seems to know that his relatively harmless affair with Suzy’s mom needs to end soon. Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) are silly without telling or even appearing to perform a single overt joke. The Khaki Scout troop leader (Edward Norton) is a man who seems to only want to be a scout leader in a larger organization (led by Harvey Keitel) that’s already pretty dysfunctional. And the Social Services representative (Tilda Swinton–and only referred to as “Social Services” in the movie) cares about little more than placing Sam in “juvenile refuge” because he’s at an age where the foster home system has run out of options for him. Even the narrator (Bob Balaban), while mostly unnecessary to the story, comes off as a bit odd, which helps make you accept his appearance.
If you haven’t yet checked out a Wes Anderson film (and believe me when I say you’d know if you had), I’d strongly recommend this as a jumping off point. For those who like his stuff and haven’t seen this yet, you’ll agree it’s probably one of his best efforts. And for everyone else, well, stay away. This is probably another of his films that you just won’t get or appreciate. I’m giving it Four out of five stars.
See you tomorrow.