Moonrise Kingdom is Beautifully Childish

So Wes Anderson is back with Moonrise Kingdom. I was sad to see that it got snubbed in the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, but it at least got some recognition with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

If you’re not really familiar with Wes Anderson, he is the mastermind behind The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson is usually the oddball among the other awards contenders because the majority of his films have somewhat arbitrary yet hilarious plots shot in a style that very much represents his indie flair. I refer to his genre as “com-dram” (I figure if people can call romantic comedies ‘rom-com’s, then I will call these comedy dramas ‘com-dram’s). It’s the perfect description of what they’re like. So let’s talk more about Moonrise Kingdom specifically…

There’s something I’ve always loved about Wes Anderson films, and that’s the purposeful emotional distance. Don’t read me wrong here—I’m not saying that the story, itself, lacks emotion because that would just be untrue. After all, Moonrise Kingdom centers around the pen-pal friendship and runaway romance of two 12-year-olds, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, on a New England island called New Penzance during the 1960s. Sam is an orphaned Khaki Scout whose foster family no longer wants to put up with him, so he’s to be taken away by Social Services to be placed in a “juvenile refuge.” Suzy is a misunderstood, violent girl whose lawyer mother is cheating on her lawyer father with the community police captain.

After realizing that they’re both troubled and considered odd by the people around them, they decide to run away together and find that their love is stronger than any of their other relationships. I mean, that’s pretty heartfelt and depressing, so this is a story with really heavy emotions, and yet the actors deliver their lines in the most comedically dry manner possible with little to no emotion whatsoever, as is the style with all of Anderson’s movies. This emotional distance is extremely hilarious while still poignant. Nevertheless, I love this delivery because I think it actually showcases the sadness and happiness in the story more than over-exaggerated emotion. Maybe that’s why Wes Anderson’s movies are so incredible. He and his actors don’t need emotion to make a story good.

Despite the delivery being dry and emotionless, the screenplay is filled with heart. It’s very Romeo & Juliet, but there’s more of a childish innocence to the story, and I think that makes it really beautiful. Here, we have two 12-year-olds who come from very different backgrounds (as is emphasized in the scene where Suzy brings her suitcase, kitten, and other very city-like possessions for their runaway while Sam carries a Scout backpack with all of the necessary tools for survival in the woods) who escape from those backgrounds to start a new life together. There’s also something very naive yet poetically transcendental about leaving everything behind to go live in the woods and fall in love. I have to say, I think this is Anderson’s finest screenplay yet, and that’s saying a lot because I thought he had outdone himself with The Darjeeling Limited.

Also, the music is so good, but that’s to be expected of Wes Anderson and music supervisor Alexandre Desplat. There’s a really interesting mix of classical, opera, ’50s folk, and ’60s contemporary. There’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34: Themes A-F” by Leonard Bernstein, “Playful Pizzicato” from Simple Symphony, Op. 4 from the English Chamber Orchestra, “Kaw-Liga” and “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” by Hank Williams, and “Les Temps de l’Amour” by Francoise Hardy just to round up a few of the interesting songs throughout this movie. Anderson’s music choices remind me a lot of (my favorite) Quentin Tarantino’s music choices in that he goes for the eccentric. I have to say, I think the music is what helps make this film great.

My only problem with this movie was Bruce Willis. Now, even though I love the fact that Bruce Willis played a small island community police officer in this movie, I couldn’t get past the fact that his character still acted just like Bruce Willis acts in all of the other movies he’s in. You know what I mean? Like he still had that disgruntled look on his face, and he still spoke in that raspy voice he always has. I don’t see [insert name of police officer character whose name I can’t even remember because I only remember Bruce Willis]. Instead, I see John McClane, Butch Coolidge, Korben Dallas, Harry Stamper, and all of the other Bruce Willis aliases. For God’s sake, Bruce Willis, this is a Wes Anderson film! You can be a weirdo for once. Look at f***ing Jason Schwartzman! He looks and acts like a douche in this movie, and yet he’s hilarious because he, as an actor, doesn’t act the same way in every movie.

And my final thought: There was not nearly enough Tilda Swinton in this movie.

Overall, Moonrise Kingdom is a com-dram with great music, hilarious acting from big names, and line delivery devoid of emotion that still delivers more of an emotional punch than the majority of rom-coms I’ve seen. Wes Anderson has definitely outdone his previous movies by crafting a screenplay with beautiful childish dreams of running away and falling in love to which I’m pretty sure everyone can relate. It definitely deserves the Best Motion Picture nomination it received from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the Golden Globes, and I will be sorely disappointed if it doesn’t get Academy Award recognition for something.

Now having seen the movie, however, I revoke what I said in my Golden Globes post about how I was surprised to see Bill Murray and Frances McDormand left off of the list of nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Actress. It’s not that they didn’t do a fantastic job. It was more that there were so many big-name actors all playing relatively small parts in Moonrise Kingdom that I don’t think they could outshine the actors with much bigger parts from other films who were nominated. If you like Wes Anderson, you need to rent this movie right now. If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson movie, try this one on for size.

Moonrise Kingdom: A

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