Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Moonrise Kingdom": This was a Literate, Middle-Class Childhood During Camelot

     Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom looked quirky, peculiar, and downright funny in its preview.  When we finally saw it, I turned to Neil after about thirty seconds and said, “Is this supposed to be set in 1962?”  A moment later, a postmarked letter showed that it was 1965.  That’s when quirky and peculiar were replaced by ‘oh, this is a period movie’ and it’s for families.  Actually, its target audience is the
tween set since the two main characters who fall in love are twelve years old.  We saw it at the Esquire so that audience would have been about twelve to twenty-five in 1965.  

Suzy's Stolen Library Books
     Anderson’s earlier works Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums felt like the essence of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Raise High The Roofbeams, respectively, captured on film.  Anderson captured that quiet, smartass teenage loner tone that I associate with Salinger perfectly, but his characters don’t mope around for long and that is a definite advantage.  Moonrise Kingdom feels like one of the six (faux) Newberry- type books that Suzy reads to Sam and then the rest of the Khaki Scouts later.  The books’ dust jackets and illustrations are right out of that period when Charlotte’s Web, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and The Island of Blue Dolphins opened up magical worlds to that generation of readers.  

The Narrator, Bob Balaban
     It’s narrated by Bob Balaban, who shows maps of the island where the story is set and warns of an impending storm – the worst in decades.  We see Suzy’s family living in what looks to be a lighthouse on the coast inter-cut with Edward Norton as Scout Master Randy Ward realizing that Sam ‘has flown the coup.’  Basically, these are two troubled children who find one another and overcome a number of environmental and social challenges to be together.  Anderson’s casting is excellent.  Bill Murray, a longtime collaborator, is Suzy’s lawyer father who probably isn’t as old as he looks and Frances McDormand plays her tough lawyer mother who looks like she could be marching with Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug in a few years.  Suzy seems like she could end up marching against Vietnam, going to Woodstock (after all, it was shot in Rhode Island), or even (gulp) joining the Weather Underground.  Murray and McDormand suggest depth and 

Murray, McDormand, Norton, and Willis
complexity to their characters, though we see them and the other adults as Sam and Suzy see them – a few broad strokes of attitudes and emotions.  This is also true for Bruce Willis 
Tilda Swinton
as (police) Captain Sharp and Tilda Swinton as Social Services (working in a George Tooker-like bureaucratic office, but dressed like a Salvation Army Sergeant).

Suzy and Sam Exploring the Moonrise Kingdom
     The real wonder is the gravity and commitment of Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy.  Both make their professional movie débuts and they’re finds.  There is no cuteness, no playing to be sweet; they’re both realistic children who seem to be from that era.  The other child actors playing the Khaki Scouts and Suzy’s brothers and fellow performers in Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde are also notable for keeping it real.  Britten’s music is used throughout, some of it from Leonard Bernstein conducting The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and it lends an otherworldly tone to the story along with the light and the color palette.  It’s a movie I appreciated while watching and liked later.

BTW...Suzy had her kitten hidden in her basket!

1 comment:

Benjamin Anderson said...

I love Wes Anderson and "Moonrise Kingdom" was a top 3 flick for me in 2012. Great review!