Thursday, August 9, 2012
MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)
Within Wes Anderson’s tightly controlled frame anything can happen and often does, which results in either head-scratching perplexity (as in the first ten minutes of THE LIFE ACQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, after which I had to abandon ship) or in giddy exhilaration (as in RUSHMORE, his best film to date). The writer/director’s latest effort (which he co-wrote with Roman Coppola) lands more in the latter camp and follows two social misfits who fall in love as completely as 12-year-olds can. In the dog days of summer on a remote island off the eastern seaboard, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) meet at a performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera “Noye’s Fludde”. He’s a wayward Khaki Scout, and she’s a Raven in the production. Both have been labeled as problem children: she by parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand); he by his foster parents (his real parents are long gone). She spent her summer in the confines of her family home, watching the world through binoculars. He spent his summer antagonizing (unwittingly) his fellow scouts while impressing Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) with his survival skills. Suzy and Sam take off into the wild, which causes panic among the adults because a large storm is due to hit the island any day. Meanwhile sad sack Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) forms a search party to track down the wayward youths. Anderson presents childhood as we remember it – filled with high adventure, chaste romance, and selfless heroics. He contrasts this with the melancholy grown-ups who seem worn down by the cares of adult life. We understand why Sam and Suzy seek to escape the adulthood set before them, and we suspect that those who label them troubled do so because they can’t bear this reminder of their lost idealism. The performances are uniformly excellent. Hayward and Gilman are winning and charmingly idiosyncratic, while a vulnerable Willis and a guileless Norton are an unexpected treat. Anderson is often criticized for his detached tone, but he transcends this here with a final shot that positively glows with warm affection.