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Moonrise Kingdom

June 17, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom is another Wes Anderson masterpiece. The film boasts a self-assured Anderson doing what he does best. Wes Anderson makes wonderful Wes Anderson films. What do Anderson movies include? beautiful set design, quirky characters, obscure music,  and a plethora of dolly shots.

His movies are quotable, memorable and require multiple viewings. They also feature the three Ds (death, divorce, depression). The visuals and jokes come so fast you barely have time to appreciate everything you are seeing. Whether it is a motorcycle in a tree or Bill Murray throwing a shoe at Ed Norton there is always a funny/surprising moment. One thing I love about Wes Anderson films is that a throw away joke can become your favorite moment after further inspection.

Wes has added another element to his arsenal. Moonrise Kingdom has a genuine warmth to go along with the quirks. The two key players responsible for the depth are Edward Norton and Bruce Willis. The two have actors are notorious for being difficult (Hulk, Cop Out, The Score). However, they seem to have bought into the Anderson mind-set and bring another dimension that was only glimpsed on the surface of prior Wes films. Their scenes with young Sam are true works of odd art.

The movie centers around two precocious yet slightly deranged 12 year olds who run away together on a sleepy island inhabited by Wes Anderson characters. Looking for them are Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. They also come across Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel.

Bruce Willis adds a surprising amount of warmth and sadness to his police officer. Edward Norton is a perfect mixture of aloof and capable as the Khaki Scout Master. Bill Murray is a depressed man who gets drunk and chops down trees. McDormand is his wife and a successful lawyer who is stymied by her occasionally enraged daughter.

The movie works on every level. I laughed all the way through. After this film and The Royal Tenenbaums it is clear that Anderson knows how to make stab wounds funny. Also, the set design reminded me a lot of Life Aquatic.  The practical sets and unique construction allow for long dolly moves that feature beautifully framed shots. Also, I loved the two young actors who hit every note correctly. Their roles required them to be confident, capable and wise yet still behave like kids.

Moonrise Kingdom is the product of a man who knows what he likes. All of his films may share the same visual flair and eccentric characters. However, he is constantly evolving in ways that add more depth to the familiar. With each film his characters become more human without sacrificing the odd qualities that make them such beloved characters.

Watch Moonrise Kingdom. Dig the depth. Appreciate the warmth. Don’t get stabbed by scissors.

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