Moonrise Kingdom – 2012
Director Wes Anderson
Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Howard, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban
Screenplay Anderson and Roman Coppola
The only Wes Anderson movies I own are The Life Aquatic… and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the former is his worst movie, the latter is just about his best, after this one. I just like Bill Murray. He’s at his best in the two I own, and in the rest of the Wes Anderson collection, he’s just about what he is in Moonrise Kingdom: sad, pathetic and ghostly. Murray must love working with Anderson. He’s been in all but one of his films.
Many film critics love Wes Anderson films. To me, they are like a chore. Something one must get through because the word of mouth among those in the know is so glowing. Each time (except for the one about the fox) I watch one of his films, I get the same feeling: forced quirkiness. He has mastered the technique that he developed by now. The special effects looking intentionally like something out of Max Fischer’s plays in Rushmore, everybody in the room looking off in the distance like they are 1000 miles away, and the main characters always a bit off, which makes them more in the moment than those who struggle to understand them. For me, it’s not a struggle to understand all of this. It is a real challenge to muster the motivation to care.
This time around, we are on a quaint New England Island, where everyone lives like they are off-road, but firmly on the grid. There is a camp of Boy Scouts named “Kahki Scouts.” This is so that we understand that the authors believe the people running the scouts lack for fashion ideas. On the other side of the Island, two parents who are attorneys (but never seen heading to or coming from work). A boy scout (Gilman) sees the daughter (Howard) of the attorneys (Murray and McDormand), strikes up a courtship with her through notes back and forth. One year later, they strike off on their own.
The rest of this, I will leave to you to watch. There is not a moment where the viewer cannot tell where this story is going, even if the story tellers (and many critics) think that their vision is a unique one. For me, it’s all the same. People are still living lives of quiet desperation, there is still much smoking going on, and the kids are always the smartest ones in the frame.
The performances of Gilman as young Sam and Hayward as Suzy Bishop do stand out, but partly for their Asperger’s-like genius that might strike out and maim someone at any moment, or they just might make it on their own. Surprisingly, Schwartzman provides the best performance after the kids, as the money-grubbing Scout Master of means. Bob Balaban’s moments are pretty cool, mainly because they contain Bob Balaban. The rest of the cast is what one can expect from a Wes Anderson film. They are like older, more bored versions of the kids. And the kids are pretty boring.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not like Anderson is without skill. His best film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, put all of his quirks where they belong, in a children’s book. It also helped that Streep and Clooney had the chops to give his dour tones a little color. His comic strip like framing and the number of things he has going on when seemingly essential information passes is somewhat amusing. It would make for good, re-watchable commercials. I love my DVR so much, I likely would not see them anyway.
(*** out of *****)