“Moonrise Kingdom” 2012
Directed by- Wes Anderson
Running Time- 94 mins
There is something about the way all the characters speak in every Wes Anderson movie that leads me to believe that those who star in his movies tend to take on the persona of the director, much the same way they do when starring a Woody Allen movie. The mannered dialogue is so deadpan and matter-of-fact that it is not only funny but it is also makes all the characters sound so intelligent and mature, even the children. The stories are also sophisticated while managing to be touching and life affirming.
The film takes place on New Penzance, an island off the coast of New England, in the 1960's. The main character is a 12-year-old boy named Sam, played by Jared Gilman. Sam is an orphan and a Khaki scout who wears black frame glasses and whose odd way makes him unpopular with the rest of the scouts at his summer camp, Camp Ivanhoe. Gilman's performance is not as great as Jason Schwartzman's performance was in Anderson's “Rushmore”, but he does pull off the perfect mix of maturity, innocence and courage that make him delightful to follow.
Sam is enamored with Suzy Bishop, played by Kara Hayward. Suzy is about the same age as Sam. She is the daughter of two attorneys- Walt, played by Bill Murray and Laura, played by Frances McDormand. Suzy, like Sam, is a misunderstood outcast and the two find each other and are instantly drawn to one another. Hayward is a pretty young woman and her Laura is mature in her interests yet rebellious in her behaivor. Seeing Sam and Laura one can't help but root for their relationship to succeed the way one roots for the nerd to win the heart of the prettiest girl in school.
Over numerous letter correspondence the two decide to run away together, which throws their respective authority figures into a dither searching for them.
Searching for Sam is Scout Master Ward, played by Edward Norton. This is Norton's first movie with Anderson but the way he delivers the signature Anderson dialogue makes him fit in perfectly. As is his duty Ward calls in the assistance of Police Captain Sharp, played by Bruce Willis, who incidentally is having a tepid albeit secret affair with Laura. Willis is another actor in his first Anderson movie that appears right at home with the monotone dialogue.
When Ward and Sharp contact Sam's guardians, they find out not only is Sam an orphan but because of this latest incident his foster parents no longer wish to house him. So they in turn have to deal Social Services. Instead of giving the character, played by Tilda Swinton, a name, she is just called Social Services. Seriously, they call her that like it's her name.
Sam and Laura grow close while “on the run” and their adolescent love is very charming and easy to root for even when it borders on sexual. Those in pursuit of them eventually do find them and the two are forbidden from seeing each other again. Sam goes under the care of Captain Sharp while they await Social Services to arrive in town and Laura goes back home with her estranged parents.
Murray is a veteran of Anderson's movies but despite receiving critical acclaim for his performance is not much of a standout to me. More the surprise is McDormand who is in her first Anderson film. She brings her usual warmth and strength to the role of Laura a woman who decides to leave the man she's having an affair with to return to her marriage.
As with other Anderson movies, plot has some odd twists and turns and there is even a pinch of the unbelievable that makes the movie feel like it has a touch of magic to it. The movie is definitely deserving of its Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination although there is no indication it will win that award. Add to everything a perfect blend of music both soundtrack and a score written by Alexandre Desplat (who also did the score for “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty”) and this movie has everything a Wes Anderson fan could ever want.
That makes this film my favorite of the year and with all the great movies that came out in 2012 that is saying a lot.
Film Grade- A+