Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is a hard working and extremely talented director who's movies have almost all shared a weird quirk: They are all focused on adults who act, on some level or another, like children. Therefore it seems like a natural extension that his latest film is mostly focused on a pair of children who act like adults. It's equally odd that this addition has allowed him to not only make what I think is the best film of his career thus far, but also easily one of the best films I've seen all year.

The story is devoted to an emotionally disturbed young boy who one day, up and runs away from the boy scout camp on the remote New England island he lives on. He is headed for an emotionally disturbed young girl on the other side of the island, with whom he intends to run away. Their disappearance sets the island in an uproar, as multiple groups begin to circle the island to look for them. Oh and as the narrator so helpfully tells us, there is a huge hurricane set to hit the island in 3 days.

This is one of those rare movies which doesn't slack off in a single department, so it'll take me a while to list all of it's good parts. The first and foremost, and one of the more unique ways it excels, is in it's incredible direction. The cinematography is one of the most singularly unique styles I've seen in years, although people familiar with Wes Anderson should recognize it. I can't even think of a way to describe it, but it consists primarily of long flat pans and large wide shots, which I know doesn't SOUND interesting, but trust me, when you see it you'll know what I mean. Combined with an eclectic and strangely beautiful soundtrack and some amazing visuals, the whole film is lent an air of the surreal, like magical realism that never quite makes the leap from the unlikely to the fantastic.

The plot is subtle and eventually poignant, beginning as a simple 'kids running away from home' story and spiraling out of control, into subplots involving every single character and event. This is one of the ways the script shines (in many ways it's the first truly 'Oscar Worthy' script of the year, signaling once again that this is likely to be a good year for movies), as essentially every character introduced in the first act has an arc, an impressive feat with the large cast. The dialogue is rapid fire, often accompanied by fast edits, but it all feels natural and in character, and subtle changes in word use allows each character to have a unique voice. I've no doubt that when more people have seen it this movie will be deemed 'hard to classify' as it flits back and forth between deep pathos, magical realism, romance and comedy so easily that it's hard to tell where the lines are between the genres, if they even truly exist within this film. And usually you'd expect the large cast and genre hopping to leave the film feeling overlong and thinly spread, but on the contrary, it feels so rich and alive that when I came out I was shocked to find it was only 94 minutes long.

When looking at the cast I can almost sense what I think is a subtle joke in the casting and character priority. The two leads, IE the kids, are played by complete unknowns (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward and oh LORD what finds they are) whereas the supporting cast is populated entirely with name stars (Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Bruce freaking Willis). Oh and I'm not kidding about Jared and Kara, both of them are absolutely incredible, really selling their 'world weary adult trapped in a child's body' characters (it helps that Kara Hayward has EXTREMELY intense eyes). Of the adult actors, Edward Norton and believe it or not, Bruce Willis are the standouts. Edward essentially walks away with every scene he's in and Bruce Willis gives one of the best dramatic performances of his career. As for the rest, Francis McDormand is as good as she always is, Bill Murray is fantastic in a subtle and quiet performance and Tilda Swinton does a great job in a smaller role.

Honestly, I'm at a loss of what else to say about this. I'm sure it's symbolizing SOMETHING, as nothing can be this surreal and beautiful without having something to say, but I'll have to see it a few more times to figure out what. Right now it's in limited release, but hopefully it'll get a slightly wider theater count soon. If it comes anywhere near you in the future, or is near you now, do not miss this, it's a sure thing for one of the best films of the year. See you next time.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he found it very distracting that Bruce Willis had hair.

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