Friday, June 22, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

"Moonrise Kingdom" is the latest film by Wes Anderson, the quirky™ director of such films as "The Royal Tenebaums", "The Life Aquatic", and the - dare I say - fantastic, stop-motion film, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox".  Being a quirky™ director, Wes Anderson is obsessed with a bizarre detached style to his movies, to the point where you're never quite sure what you've seen and why it was made, but you always feel like a richer person for the experience.  This guy loves drab colors, monotone dialog, and quirky™ music choices.

 Now unlike many of my reviews here, I'm not going to act like I actually understand "Moonrise Kingdom", and that's fine.  There are a lot of movies I don't actually understand and still like, The Monkee's "Head", "The Last Circus", several Cronenberg movies, etc.  And really, if I could just automatically understand everything in life, I'd pretty much just give up on existence and evolve into a Boddhisatva.  That sounds dull to me, I'm glad for life's little mysteries, and I'm glad for the mysteries of film.  Perhaps Wes Anderson isn't saying anything at all with his quirkiness™, he could be a fraud like Terry Malice.  But there is a definitely a distinctive style here, Wes Anderson makes movies like nobody else.  And I think I know why.  Watching a Wes Anderson movie is like watching a film made by some artistic alien race.  They came to Earth, saw movies, realized immediately that this medium was exciting and they wanted to make their own movies.  Unfortunately, they aren't quite human, so what they create looks a lot like a regular human movie, but there's something clearly off.  Real people don't act like this, the film is shot wrong, the dialog is bizarre, and the colors are all-off.  But still, you gotta hand it to these foreign alien creatures, they sure made an interesting movie, even if your human brain cannot quite understand it.  Do you laugh, do you cry?  Its hard to decide.

So yeah, I'm saying that Wes Anderson is an alien.

Anyway, "Moonrise Kingdom" is a pretty clear example of a Wes Anderson movie.  Almost to the point of being a completely generic Wes Anderson movie, which is what a lot of the negative reviews have been saying.  But as for me, I usually enjoy a Wes Anderson movie, especially one features Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, and Tilda Swinton in quirky™ supporting roles.  The main couple is too socially awkward friendless preteens who run away from home and fall in love in the New England wilderness.  Then of course, since they ran away from home, their parents and guardians want them separated.  Its puppy love with a Wes Anderson flair, I guess you could even consider this a kid's movie if you ever wanted to expose children to a movie filled with such miserable adults and sexually awakening young adults.  Its Wes Anderson through and through, and thus, a rather beautiful movie.

You can see this is a Wes Anderson movie in pretty much the first shot onward.  He's a director obsessed with storybook shots that are straight-on to their subjects.  There are no angles in the Wes Anderson universe, only direct stage-like posed sets.  In one shot you see a long table in this summer camp, but all the tables are arranged on the far side of the table from the camera, almost like its The Last Supper for boyscouts.  Wes Anderson shoots with only three walls like a sitcom, not the typical 360 movement of most filmmakers.  Characters stare directly at the camera, right in your face.

The dialog is also strange in this film.  Everybody talks in this odd monotone style, to the point that when the movie ended I struggled for a second falling back into the natural rhythm of human speech.  This is especially clear for the two young leads, Sam and Suzy, who play off each other with barely any emoting.  The first time I saw a Wes Anderson movie I just thought the acting was terrible, but now I see this is some kind of quirky™ stylization.  I don't even know how to describe the main relationship in this movie, Sam and Suzy are so matter-of-fact with each other.  Its a innocent bluntness, I guess, where you're falling in love but you've never felt love before, so you can't even try to romance your partner.  Its said that both of the lead kids are emotionally disturbed, maybe that's what we're dealing with here.  The girl looks like a bitch, and kinda acts like one too, its surprising she latches onto Sam as much as she does.  Sam is slightly nerdy and an orphan, so neither character really quite fits in with other kids, even with each other.  But they feel a kind of kinship, to the point where they actually get married in precocious style.

Of course, this is a Wes Anderson film, again, so the adults are all damaged terribly incomplete people suffering from a mass of complexes.  Suzy is even able to call her mother out in one scene with a startlying brutal blow, "you're sleeping with that stupid lonely policeman (Bruce Willis), right?"  Edward Norton is lonely and just trying to lead his boyscout troop, Bruce Willis is a lonely cop in an affair with Frances MacDormand, Frances MacDormand is a lonely mother in a loveless marriage with Bill Murray, and Bill Murray is... a fucking mess.  But everything works out of the kids, at least.

For no reason at all the movie is narrated by Bob Balaban.  And you don't know who Bob Balaban is, so I'll just call him "an old guy with round glasses who talks about the weather a lot".  He breaks the fourth wall, describes stuff, and then leaves to only interact with the real characters once.  What his deal is, I cannot even begin to imagine.

Tilda Swinton by the way, plays a character named Child Services, who, of course, works at Child Services.  Uh-huh.

Luckily unlike "Beyond the Black Rainbow" this non-traditional movie still manages to work.  Because, for one, it has characters and a plot that actually moves, and for another, there's a sweet beauty to it all.  A quirky™ beauty, but a beauty none the less.  "Moonrise Kingdom" is set in 1965, which I guess is a way to explain away the odd clothing and vintage choices in children's fiction novels, and I guess the alien fashions of the Sixties/Seventies are really inspiring to Wes Anderson.  He might, unfortunately, at times get too quirky™ for his own good, but for the most part this movie is solid.

Which is of course why its only playing in arthouse movie theatres.  Traditional cinema these days can only abide blockbusters, bad comedies, cartoons, and 3D versions of those movies.  I get depressed looking at the limited selection in the film market for so many people.  Thank god for DVD.

When "Moonrise Kingdom" comes out on DVD for you who can't find an arthouse cinema, be sure to rent it.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is the first post I've read here in a long time without the little * notes.