Sunday, May 27, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom is pure cinematic delight

America has a pretty solid amount of great filmmakers who have a strong sense of style and unfortunately, it feels like mainstream audiences just never have been able to fully embrace some of them. Wes Anderson has a strong core of fans, but he also has a steady group of detractors who view him as a filmmaker who can't escape his style. But it's undeniable to me that Wes Anderson is one of America's greatest auteurs. In production design, he's unmatched. And he continues to get more sophisticated and stylish when it comes to the cinematography in his films. Mainstream America just hasn't been ready to embrace his style of humor, but I hope that can change with Moonrise Kingdom. In fact, I think Moonrise Kingdom has crossover potential and it's the most "Wes Anderson" of Wes Anderson films.

Moonrise Kingdom is Wes at the height of his powers, without a doubt. If Fantastic Mr. Fox was an unashamedly animated recreation of his style, Moonrise Kingdom goes even further. But you know what? It works. It works because the film has an engrossing enough story that's simple enough to follow along with and its main characters are absolutely adorable and fun to watch.

The film's set on the fictional island of New Penzance where two 12 year old kids attempt to run away together. The boy, Sam Shakusky, is a member of the Khaki Boy Scouts Club of America (think I got that right) and is away at camp; he's considered the least popular among the scouts. Suzy Bishop is just a bored girl, misunderstood by her parents, prone to bursts of rage, and a general outcast. The movie starts a year after they had first met and they have been planning an escape the entire time. When they finally do, the head scout (Ed Norton) is beside himself, Suzy's parents are upset and confused (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). The island's only policeman (Bruce Willis) is just incompetent in general.

Yes, one of the film's great ironies is that the kids are more mature and adult-like than the parents. This may be typical Wes Anderson, but it also makes for a film that... if it's not cute and fun to watch, then it's just downright funny. It's not only that, the amount of creativity that he puts forth into this film is just awe-inspiring to me; how he's able to create this entirely fictional world set in 1965 with funny, memorable characters and still have time to make the story between Sam and Suzy feel sweet and natural. It's a brilliantly made film about childhood romance.

Wes Anderson may never give up his style but Moonrise Kingdom proves that he can still expand and improve on it in a big way. Part of the problems with The Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited were that they were a bit too full of themselves for there to be any real emotional resonance. Moonrise Kingdom has a lot of sweet, endearing moments and a lot of funny moments and it's great example of how the Texan filmmaker is able to translate his style into big laughs.

There's so much jam-packed in this 94 minute movie that perhaps my only complaint is that I wish the film had some room to breathe. As it is, this is Wes Anderson firing on all cylinders, completely in control of his craft, reminding us all why he's a director that deserves to be on top of the list when we rank the great directors of this current generation. I loved this film.

Grade: A

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