Saturday, August 18, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Movie Review

Introducing Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
Starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban. Directed by Wes Anderson.


Wes Anderson, God bless him, is a quirky director with a distinct style that puts his stories on a tightrope.  His movies can suffer from an overload of whimsy.  As long as human emotion can still break through, that's when he succeeds best.  I loved The Royal Tenenbaums, partly because the three genius kids still felt the pain of having such an unbearably dysfunctional dad.  I felt like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou didn't quite work because the quirky overwhelmed the humanity.

Moonrise Kingdom succeeds largely because the emotions are real.  Granted, he still has that puppet-show style where most frames are set up like you're in the front row watching something unfold on stage, but the offbeat delivery doesn't hide or blur the humanity.  It centers on Sam, a resourceful khaki scout, and Suzy, an angry girl with binoculars.  They are 12 years old in 1965, and if Stephen King's taught me anything, it's that being 12 is a magical time, when girls aren't just those creatures with cooties who stand on the other side of class.  Sam and Suzy both feel like outcasts and are therefore drawn to each other.  They've hatched a plan, you see.

Edward Norton is Scout Master Ward, in charge of his troop and alarmed when he sees Sam has run away. He notifies Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the law enforcement in these parts.  They come to learn Suzy's gone too and must notify her parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand).  We go back and forth watching the adults frantically, fruitlessly try to find the two lovebirds, and we watch Sam and Suzy survive in the wilderness, for Sam has been training for this.

Jared Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy) have made their film debuts here, and they simply are their characters. The relationship and chemistry between them is sweet, unforced and natural.  Even in stylized Anderson-ville, everything works.  We want these two crazy kids to be together, even though there's no possible way they can just live in the woods forever.  Gilman has this straightforward nerdiness, and Hayward is like a rebellious Emma Watson.

We caught this at the $3 theater, so I imagine it'll be on DVD in a couple months. It's worth hunting down. Wouldn't surprise me if it gets a couple Academy Award nominations when the time comes.

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