Sunday, 27 May 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

****
Moonrise Kingdom displays all the idiosyncrasies one would expect from a Wes Anderson film. And then some. The director goes for it in his fairytale imagining of a story in which the main focus is upon children. It has an odd crudity to it – more so than any of his other live action works. This is undoubtedly a conscious decision and all adds to the childlike charm. It also adds to the period flavour.

It is 1965 and a troop of Khaki Scouts are camping on a small archipelago, Penzance Island off the coast of New England. Young Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) has run away from Camp with local girl Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) and Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) round up a search party, including Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), and hunt for the missing pair.

Norton plays it appropriately straight as a man who takes his scouting very seriously. Willis gives more than a touch of melancholy. McDormand and Murray are a little quirkier in performance. But they all play second fiddle to the kids. The two young leads do well, heading this seasoned cast. There is nothing obvious about newcomer Jared Gilman’s performance. It is wonderfully unaffected and, as so often with children in real life, unconsciously eccentric. Kara Hayward has a charming vulnerability and makes for a believable young sweetheart.

In scripting the film, Wes Anderson reunites, and comes up trumps again, with Roman Coppola, with whom he wrote The Darjeeling Limited. Moonrise Kingdom is completely charming and should – as proved in Cannes just recently - melt the iciest of cynical hearts. It’s as fresh and brilliantly peculiar as anything Anderson’s done previously. At times its cartoonishness undermines the emotional heft. As with all of his films there is depth if you look for it. The director always manages to captures the seriousness of childhood and here he is given opportunity to explore that in more detail. It makes me wonder what kind of a kid he was, himself. I like to think he was just like one of his characters, marching around giving orders to a lackey traipsing behind him taking notes. But I imagine it would have been an awful lot of fun – even for that lackey - being his friend.

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