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Well… I think a few weeks ago on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival I saw the best movie of the year – numero uno (thus far, at least). Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is a lovers-on-the-run movie featuring two young children who by all means are completely capable of carrying the load of acting in film directed by the supremely talented man who has brought us “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and many other classics since his 1994 debut “Bottle Rocket.”
Sam and Suzy are both outcasts on a fictional yet oh-so-real isolated island off the coast of southern Rhode Island in the Cold War era. Sam, played by Jared Gilman, is an orphan who’s part of the local island cub scouts and Suzy (Kara Hayward – who resembles a young Margot Tenenbaum in both her posture and her detachment from reality... Maybe Suzy’s character is actually Margot in one of her previous lives) is part of a well-to-do family They run away together, easily staying alive with the survival skills Sam has acquired from his Scout Master Randy Ward – a role that Edward Norton nailed on the bull’s eye.
That’s the thing about Wes Anderson – he’s similar other great contemporary American filmmakers like Scorsese, Tarantino and P.T. Anderson in the sense that actors and actresses love working with him so much that they just flock back to him – and other great stars continue to swarm into his casts. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are both veterans of his works, and though this is Norton, Harvey Keitel and Bruce Willis’ first appearance, it probably won’t be their last.
Every film he makes is always edited brilliantly. At one time in “Moonrise Kingdom” he connects two shots that are each taking up half the screen with a simple table. There is nobody that can make things more awkwardly warm or calmly colder onscreen than him, exemplified through the way he keeps major actions out of his films so that what happened is open to your interpretation – even though it is fairly obvious what happened, he makes you think about it to enhance its importance within the plot.
Using dollhouses to enhance the fully level and beautifully refined composition of all his shots is a quite clever move on Wes Anderson’s part, and we’ve come to expect nothing less. Dare I go on without mentioning the tremendous soundtrack that accompanies the film? Besides multiple songs written and sung by Hank Williams, it also features perfectly placed compositions from Mozart which makes what is happening onscreen more cumbersome than it already is.
“Moonrise Kingdom” resembles both Terrance Malick’s “Badlands” and Jean Luc-Godard’s “Pierrot le fou” in terms of its plot, and if you’ve seen either of those masterpieces, their influence will be highly recognizable within Anderson’s newest film. As usual, Anderson finds another obscure social classification to make fun of with his rather notorious dry humor. Among the batshit-insane oceanographer, the eccentric over-involved teenager and the many other colorful characters Wes has brought us, we can now add an isolated boy scout and a detached affluent girl – two lovers on the run – to the list.
No wonder why Bill Murray keeps coming back for more - Wes might be the best American filmmaker out there. Any movie that makes fun of “Titanic” and “The Shawshank Redemption” is automatically top 5 for me whatever year it came out, and I’ll be shocked if “Moonrise Kingdom” isn’t up there come the end of the year. Get out and see this, kiddos.
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