May 23, 2012
Moonrise Kingdom: resistance is futile
I got to see Wes Anderson's new movie Moonrise Kingdom last night. For a while, I tried to maintain some critical distance in my consideration of all the twee mid-60's set design and nostalgia-porn props and the adorable story about two kids in love. But watching this movie is like watching a fluffy mewling little kitten wearing a just-so blue grosgrain ribbon collar frolicking outside on a spring day: you can try mightily to resist the cuteness, but eventually the defenses fail. It's all so sweet and tender and dear that you just want to pick it up and squeeze it and rub noses with it. I just can't help it.
The plot centers on a love story between two kids, Sam and Suzy. They're 12, and they talk like 12 year-olds, not like the ironic Comparative Lit grad students that kids in some movies talk like (ahem, 500 Days of Summer). Their relationship develops over a year of writing letters to each other in a fantastic extended montage, and the movie takes the relationship seriously. They love each other, but they're matter-of-fact and unsentimental about it. They're also unhappy misfits in their own lives, misunderstood by their peers and families, so they plan to run off together. Since they live on an island, and since they're 12, they don't make it, but their resolve to be together is never made into a joke or a whimsical little folly. What they have is childish, but real.
I think Anderson made a good decision not to go with the usual super-cool indie soundtrack this time. This soundtrack sticks to classical (Benjamin Britten) and Hank Williams--simple, square songs that are emotionally honest but reserved, too. One excellent scene incorporates Francoise Hardy's "Le Temps de l'Amour", but that's as hip as it gets. This goes a long way in clearing any whiffs of preciousness that tend to seep into his other movies.
The cast is incredible, of course--both of the kids are talented first-timers, and the adults are all great. Bruce Willis is especially good as a sad, sweet cop, and Ed Norton (where's that guy been lately?) seems to totally embrace the nerdiness of his Eagle Scout camp counselor role. Jason Schwartzman, Anderson's regular guy, is in only one pivotal scene, but he's utterly hilarious and perfect. (Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton are maybe a little underused.)
Anyway, this is as good as anything Wes Anderson's ever done, and it gets back to what worked about Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, minus the pretentiousness: it's nostalgic, wistful, sad, beautiful, funny, and irresistibly adorable. Plus it's got excitement and rebellion straight out of a 6th grade adventure book. You don't stand a chance.
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