26 May 2012

For You I'd Wait 'Til Kingdom Come

I arrived in Cannes the day after the Moonrise Kingdom premiere and thought it sounded quirky and interesting, so I was disappointed that if I wanted to see it in Cannes, I would have had to watch it dubbed into French. Unsurprisingly, I decided to wait until I was back in England. The only other Wes Anderson film I've seen is The Royal Tenenbaums, which I didn't like at all, although back then my taste in films was a lot less eclectic than it is now, so I didn't rush out to see any of his other movies. But I liked Moonrise Kingdom so much, maybe I will take a look at his back catalogue.

Moonrise Kingdom is set on a small island off the coast of New England in the summer of '65. Drawn together by their mutual sadness and their love for each other,12-year-old Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) decide to escape their unhappy home lives and run away together. Fresh out of khaki scout camp, Sam, clad in a coonskin cap, has plenty of useful kit and knowledge; the blue-eyeshadow-wearing Suzy, on the other hand, brings her pet kitten, a suitcase full of stolen library books, a record player and her favourite Fran├žoise Hardy record.

Hot on their heels are Suzy's aggressive, lawyer parents (Bill Murray, whose character has a collection of colourful pull-ons to make even Johnnie Boden envious, and Frances McDormand), the glum island policeman (Bruce Willis), and a whole troop of overly militaristic khaki scouts, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). Sam's parents, it turns out, are dead and the couple in charge of the near-Dickensian foster home where he has been living have decided that even if Sam is recovered, he can't go back there. Oh, and there's also the mean lady from social services (Tilda Swinton), in a pre-Wonka-chewing-gum Violet Beauregard outfit, who wants to sequester Sam away in a "juveline refuge" and administer shock treatments to him. Oh, and there's also a hurricane warning in place and a potentially ill-fated performance of Noye's Fludde.

Being a Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom is very quirky and funny-odd, but it's also sweet and, at times, funny-ha-ha. Anderson's attention to detail is almost clinical throughout, but the performances are great--the two young leads, in particular, as they play bold, intelligent, idealistic kids, who often act more mature than the adults in the film, but are still ultimately kids. Their relationship is convincing and enchanting. Norton is also excellent and very funny as the scout master who doesn't want to admit that scouting is his whole life, but part of the fun of the film is seeing all the big-name stars in such random, small-town roles.

Overall, Moonrise Kingdom is well plotted, well paced and very well acted. It's funny, strange and compelling, and well worth a watch.

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