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A Review of "MOONRISE KINGDOM" - Guest Post

Monday, 20 August 2012

Capturing young love with the use of a camera is a tricky business. Few directors have ever been able to encapsulate the spirit of it with such grace and intelligence. To be clear, when I say young love, I don’t mean young adult. Brilliant films such as "Say Anything" and "Sixteen Candles" have not only proved to be successful, but indeed spawned an entire generation of new romantics. When I say young love, I mean during the awkward prepubescent stage of our lives we all know so well, when our interest in the opposite sex teeters between curiosity and immature taunting. Few filmmakers have been able to conjure a film so elegantly about this kind of romance without being pandering or, in some cases, kind of creepy. Then again, most filmmakers don’t possess the skills and the cinematic prowess that current hipster darling Wes Anderson has, and was able to employ for his new stunner "Moonrise Kingdom."

The director of such new millennium masterpieces as "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" has crafted one of the best films of his young, yet already storied career with this charming and deeply personal tale about two young outcasts who run far away from the families and the society that disapproves of their misanthropic manners and pursue their romance. Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) meet when he awkwardly confronts her after her performance in a school play and asks her a series of unconventional questions. Her interested is immediately piqued, and they commence a pen pal relationship for a long period of time. The two children, both of whom are products of broken homes, decide to build their own version of paradise, from which the nomenclature of the film derives. Conflict arises when the young lovers are aggressively pursued by Sam’s boy scout troop, Suzy’s well to do attorney parents and a caring and similarly tragically lovestruck police officer (Bruce Willis).

In many respects, even more so than "Tenenbaums," this feels like the picture Anderson was born to make. His idiosyncratic stylings, which sometimes can be disarming, are welcome and perfectly congruent to his themes. The quirky humor is on full display here, utilizing Anderson’s typical casting of Bill Murray (playing Suzy’s aloof father) and oddball characteristics, including Suzy’s mother’s use of a bullhorn in order to communicate with the family. As well as with other Anderson films, the visual style is reminiscent of what one would find in a children’s storybook.

If anything is different here, it’s the optimism. Anderson’s films are notorious for dwelling on themes such as manic depression, lost love and social isolation, despite how cutesy and hilarious they are. There aren’t too many directors who would be bold enough to insert an unnerving suicide scene into an ostensible comedy. Yet without the use of grand operatics and corny dialogue, Anderson has conjured a sweet tart of a romantic comedy, meant to stir the nostalgia of all who watch. There’s no love quite as your first love, consummated or not. This film is delicate and touching.

Of course, Anderson is helped out by an extraordinary ensemble. Murray is at his droll best, and the chemistry shared between him and onscreen wife (the everwonderful Frances McDormand) is so natural it’s hard to believe they have yet to be paired. Edward Norton plays the troop leader of Sam’s boy scout outfit, and he is charismatic and well-suited for an Anderson film. The real standouts here are the children and Bruce Willis. Both Gilman and Hayward are cinematic newbies, but you wouldn’t know it. They both bring an astonishing level of maturity that makes it easier for audiences to relate. And Willis, an actor that one would not so readily associate with Wes Anderson, is the emotional heavyweight of the film, and he handles this role with a finesse rarely seen in his filmography heretofore.

Ultimately, the film relies on Anderson however. The acclaimed filmmaker has long been a cult favorite, and has delivered a bevy of films adored by college undergrads pursuing degrees in the liberal arts and their professors. He has yet to achieve real mainstream success. Judging by the box office statistics, this is the closest he has come, because this time Anderson has touched on themes more universal to the human experience: Childhood innocence and love. And just like he has tackled previous themes, he does so adeptly with "Moonrise Kingdom."

Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast, writer of movie reviews, and owner of which has great information on actors such as Bill Murray. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.
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