Kids reign supreme in "Moonrise Kingdom"
For all the praise and attention Wes Anderson has gotten, he hasn't really been at the movie game for very long. His resume includes just seven feature-length films, but there isn't a dud among them. What's made him such a figure in his 15-ish years in the film world is his ability to consistently use his signature style and top-notch acting talent – something that serves him well yet again in "Moonrise Kingdom."
The director/writer/producer's latest film follows young lovebirds Sam and Suzy (breakout stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) as they work to escape the confines of their 1960s scout troop and mundane upper-middle class family, respectively. As they strike out into the wilderness of their New England island, Sam's scout troop, Suzy's family, the local police and Social Services alternately rally and unravel in the search to find them.
Anderson's cast includes regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, in addition to Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton. In typical fashion, the characters are screwed up, self-involved, idiosyncratic and hilariously childish. These oddballs, however entertaining, mostly play second fiddle to the protagonist duo – which is far from a bad thing. Sam and Suzy are equal parts witty and whimsical throughout their journey, making the entire cast's darkly comedic struggles and misfortunes seem light and inconsequential.
Adding to the list of stellar child actor performances is an endearing band of khaki scout extras and the trio of Suzy's brothers. The scouts garner a fair amount of screentime and hold their own in the spotlight with their over-serious hijinks. Suzy's brothers don't get nearly the amount of attention lavished on the rest of the kids and their almost Goonies-esque escapades, but they make up for it with their absurd deadpanned one-liners.
As always, Anderson's unique staging and trademark direction preside over the controlled chaos. He makes frequent use of long pans, closeups and unusual angles, as well as documentary-style narration. Add these elements to the already very Andersonian script and you have a very prototypical addition to his cinematic CV. "Moonrise Kingdom," however, is much more than that. Like his other films, it deftly rearranges the many familiar aspects of his work and (thanks in a large part to its story and performances) emerges as an ultimately original finished product.
This indie powerhouse is a great alternative to the mundane big box office submissions. It certainly merits a viewing, but it should translate just as well to small screens for those of you looking to save a few bucks by renting.
Theaters and showtimes for Moonrise Kingdom
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