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Moonrise Kingdom

Is it a deficiency to have a style that is unmistakably distinctive? Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Woody Allen…3 very different filmmakers whose work you would never confuse with anyone else’s. Some erroneously peg this auteurist approach to simply a “sameness” to all of their respective films. Certainly a motion picture from any of them tend to have a unique feel that has you identifying it with the creator immediately. For instance, last year’s delightful “Midnight in Paris” was Woody Allen’s finest feature in decades. There was a freshness to it that I feared was all but lost to the once-great king of all things nebbish. It was unquestionably Woody, but at the same time something brand-spankin’ new. Wes Anderson falls into this category of familiarity. From the opening seconds you recognize a welcome world of wonder that is his and his alone. The detractors never fail to push forth a level of contempt for this “sin”. But this reviewer welcomes it like slipping on a comfortable pair of old shoes. And if the crime of sameness creates something as magical as “Moonrise Kingdom”, consider me an accessory to the thief. As we gear up for the usual blazing summer of explosions and men in masks and tights, Anderson’s latest is a cool breath of fresh, woodsy air.               When was the last time Edward Norton was this charming? For a guy whose recent public persona has had me labeling him a prick, he proves once again what a crisp performer he can be when given the right role. His Scout Master Randy Ward is sincere and concise and never has a false moment. It’s his finest portrayal since 2002’s “25th Hour”. Ditto Bruce Willis with his most sensitive work in a number of years as local badge Captain Sharp. And Anderson perennial, Bill Murray is in his element as lawyer Walter Bishop, along with the incredible Frances McDormand as fellow counselor and wayward wife, Laura. Their daughter Suzy(Kara Hayward)sets the plot in motion with her pen pal trysts with “Khaki Scout” loner, Sam Shakusky(Jared Gilman). Their “relationship” began the previous solstice with a chance meeting at a church performance of an opera about Noah’s Ark(Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde”). This disenchanted pair of two peas-in-a-pod have an instant connection that leads them to eventually run away together to a small island. There they dance, and kiss, confess their secrets and profess their love. All the while a search is underway entailing man, beast and scout. Plus, a big storm is on the way, along with all the wonderful symbolism such things usually incur. There is also a lighthouse, a steeple, and finally—a biblical invoking flood. And it’s been a very Tilda Swinton week for me, with her appearance as the aptly titled pursuer…Social Services.               Shades of Terrence Malick’s debut “Badlands” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” are lovingly rendered, feeling entirely original despite the obvious homage. And the children are superb, with much of the weight being carried on the shoulders of young Gilman and Hayward. Their pairing is unlikely as it is perfect…an impeccable dichotomy. If you’ve been an Anderson naysayer in the past, I don’t expect that you’ll get on board now. His stylistic fussiness alienates a fair share. But his films have always aged beautifully for me. Even “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, my least favorite Wes work upon its release in 2009, has grown on me considerably. My astute pal, Brian, was way ahead of me on that one. I chalk it up mostly to my annoyance with certain denouncers calling “Fox” his best work(it’s grown a reputation for being the favorite Wes Anderson film for those who don’t like Wes Anderson films). Many felt the use of stop-motion animation instead of live performers brought about a certain freeness in “Fox” not exhibited previously. I disagree with that assertion, but darned if that “Fox” celebration of individuality didn’t romance me more on each subsequent viewing. Is “Moonrise Kingdom” Anderson’s finest film? I don’t know yet, but I’m already primed for a fresh look. The one-two punch of 1998’s “Rushmore” and 2001’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” was what hooked me to Wes in the first place, so they immediately come to mind as standard-bearers. But “Moonrise” is decidedly his most mature work to date, which I find ironic since most of its cast is still unable to drive. But as a child of 1965, the nostalgia in the evocation of 1965 is overpowering. And I defy a great lot of you to exhibit immunity to its spell.      Grade:  A              

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2 comments on “Moonrise Kingdom

  1. Looking forward to seeing this one. I have to give proper credit to Sandy, who is the real proponent of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

  2. Standing corrected as I defer to the sagacious Ms. Schwartz. ML

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