Thursday, July 12, 2012

This Kingdom Might Be Better on a Stage: Our Review of "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012)

Directed By: Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenanbaums)

Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and smoking

Synopsis: In a small New England town in 1965, 12-year-olds Sam (Gilman) and Suzie (Hayward) run away together after falling in love through numerous letters to each other. This causes Sam’s Khaki Scouts leader, Scout Master Ward (Norton), and the town police officer, Captain Sharp (Willis), to start an island-wide search for them.


Andrew: Hello readers! Tonight Sarah and I saw the latest film from director Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom. It’s been a few years since Anderson’s last film, the stop-motion The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and even longer since his last live-action film, The Darjeeling Limited. In typical Anderson style, his new movie looked pretty quirky going in but had a great looking cast with Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand and Bill Murray to name a few.

Essentially it’s about a love story about a pair of 12-year-olds, Sam and Suzie, who run away together. Sarah, I’m having a little trouble figuring out exactly what I think about Moonrise Kingdom. I don’t know how I feel about it.

Sarah: Well I do, I’ll take it from here. I felt that this movie was like watching a play. Very much like watching an on-stage performance. I actually felt like it would transition to the stage VERY easily. The scenes were very well crafted to be very small scale, which was very cool. I loved the way this movie was filmed. It’s supposed to take place in the mid-1960s and there were shots and scenes where…I’m not sure if they used a filter or what, but Anderson was able to make it look like he filmed it in the 1960s.

There’s a beach scene at one point where the shots of Suzie looks like (to me at least) Ursula Andress in Dr. No. Just the softness of the edges and the way the whole scene looked. It was really, really creative the way the scenes were portrayed and written out. It seemed to be between the two main characters, Sam and Suzie, that a lot of the dialogue was ad-libbed. Like they were given the scene and were just meant to act out the scene on their own. It was very impressive.

I really enjoyed it. There was a lot more depth to it than I expected going in.

Many scenes in Moonrise Kingdom feel like they belong on a stage, particularly many of the smaller, intimate scenes between Suzy and Sam.

A: On a very technical level there are a lot of things that I agree with you on. It LOOKS great, which is par for the course for Wes Anderson. It DOES look like it was filmed on old stock, which we’ll have to look up later and see if it was. I’m curious to see if it was filmed on old film. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Moonrise Kingdom was filmed on 16mm film.) Wes Anderson is notable for being very particular and being very precise with what all is in his shots – the costumes, the sets, everything is done on purpose. All for the character of not only the actual characters, but also the setting of the stories and atmosphere he wants to convey.

So a lot of the technical aspects I agree with you, were great. But I think the thing for me is it comes down to…I’ve never been a BIG fan of Anderson’s quirky scripts and style. The way his characters speak, in particular. I know it’s all done completely on purpose but it all just sounds fake and forced to me. Not to say a lot of the lines and the situations in the film weren’t funny, because they WERE, but I think that’s also a testament to the actors themselves. There were a lot of funny actors in this film, including Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman.

So my hesitation comes from the fact that I like a lot of the aspects of the film, but I wasn’t buying the story a whole lot and some scenes just felt out of place to me. Like a scene towards the end where a flood happens. Things just kind of happen for no particular reason, at least it appeared so to me, and it took me out of things.

It’s a good movie and I enjoyed watching it, but I don’t know exactly how I feel about it until I process it more. Maybe I’ll have to see it again to fully know how to say what I want to say about it.

S: Maybe. I don’t mind his scripts. I find them to be choppy with a lot of quick, tight words that you have to catch. They’re meant to be funny…but again I think there’s a suspension of disbelief that you need to have. That’s why I was okay with it, because it was like watching a stage play.

I know it’s fake, but it was kind of nice to watch a movie that acted LIKE movie. It was meant to be fictional. There are things that happen where I go, “Yeah, that wouldn’t happen in real life,” but that’s nice.

A: I think, and again this could totally just be me, but my favorite character in the movie was Bruce Willis’ Captain Sharp because I felt through most of the movie his lines and his delivery felt the most normal. It kind of showed me a different side of Bruce Willis I haven’t seen in a while either, which I liked.

But you know what? Here’s the thing: I really, really enjoyed The Fantastic Mr. Fox and I loved the dialogue in it.

We both think the strength of Moonrise Kingdom lies with the cast, like (from left) Murray, McDormand, Norton and Willis. Even if Andrew had the same express as these four many times during the film.
S: See and I didn’t! I didn’t get it at all. Maybe if I went back and watched it again having seen this and having a better idea of how Anderson writes, then I would probably understand that one a bit better.

I think it’s pretty amazing that this guy can go, “I have this movie I want you to be in,” and the A-listers come running. That’s a testament to him as a director. So I was impressed.  I guess you have to process it a little more and come back to it. I definitely think this will make the Oscar circuits…

A: Yeah, but it’s a lot different than your normal Oscar bait. I’ll be interested to see what the pundits say as we get close to award season, when the other big stuff starts coming out.

Real quick, I do want to say I loved the cast, which you mentioned. Again, Willis was my favorite but I also really liked Ed Norton. I thought he was hilarious as Scout Master Ward. Murray and McDormand played well of each other, Gilman and Hayward were very cute together, and even the other Khaki Scouts were good.

S: Yes, I really liked the boys who played all the other Khaki Scouts. They were probably my favorite.

A: So overall we enjoyed it, but I wasn’t in love with it.

S: It’s definitely not one you have to see in theatres, but you SHOULD see it at some point.

FINAL VERDICT: Netflix it.

(Out of Five clapboards)

Photo Courtesies:  Collider, Ella & LouiseMovie Film Review

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