Moonrise Kingdom

By Dan Dunkle | Jul 17, 2012

Director Wes Anderson is an artist, but I'm only a fan of his stuff about half the time.

My three favorite Wes Anderson movies are "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," and his new one, "Moonrise Kingdom."

I actually wasn't even planning to go to this. I went for a walk downtown and came to The Strand just in time for the evening show. On a whim, I decided to go in.

Before I review the movie, I have to talk about The Strand. The theater is just beautiful.

One thing in particular that struck me was the bit before the film asking you to turn off your cell phone. At The Strand, this is a sepia-toned comedy short featuring Rockland's Liz McLeod answering some old fashioned 1940s phone in the middle of a movie while another theater-goer gives her the stink eye. By changing the time period, this shows how ridiculous it is to talk on the phone during a movie.

Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" is the kind of movie that should only be watched in an old-fashioned movie palace. Set in 1965, it tells the story of two star-crossed young lovers, a bold orphan summer camp defector named Sam (Jared Gilman) and a mother-hating summer home runaway named Suzy (Kara Hayward). The story is set on an island or coastal community that won't seem that different to longtime Midcoast visitors.

Like all of Anderson's films, this is delightfully whimsical. Each frame is a meticulously planned picture.

Edward Norton plays the bumbling "Khaki Scout" leader in charge of a tent village that looks right out of a Yogi Bear cartoon. It's from this camp that Sam resigns as a scout and goes off to meet his love Suzy.

The two are right at that weird moment, not quite teenagers, not quite children. Uncomfortably so. They set up housekeeping in a tent in the woods where she reads her fantasy novels and plays her records while he fishes and defends them with his air rifle. They are forced periodically to evade the posse of scouts dispatched to find them, scouts with early 60's ideas about conformity and bullying with names like "Lazy Eye."

Also hunting them are the community's bumbling police officer, Bruce Willis, and Suzy's unhappy lawyer parents, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand.

It's obvious to the audience and lost on the oblivious adults in the film why these two kids need to get away for a little while to get through this phase of growing up. In getting that across, Anderson does a good job as an artist.

There are places where the story drags on a little too slowly, and places where I found myself distracted by Anderson's "look how very clever and hip I am" style. For one thing, all of the characters always talk in his signature emotionless short clipped sentences, a hipster patois. Mostly I figure, "OK, they've got their walls up." But even in a moment of peril, the characters aren't allowed to jump out of monotone.

He's a master at casting, and somehow has Murray in his corner, which is working well for him. If the writing was a little tighter, his movies would be damn near perfect.

If you grew up in the 20th century, though, I bet you'll like this one.





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