Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wes Anderson's at it again--with an absolutely "dear" MOONRISE KINGDOM

His best film since The Darjeeling Limited (which, for TrustMovies, remains his best yet), Wes Anderson's newest work, MOONRISE KINGDOM, will probably not convert the as-yet unconverted, but it should please his fans something fierce, while adding a few new ones to the club. It's got all his trademark tropes: It's fey, it's twee; it's got family upended and odd ducks galore. This time, gracious a-me, it even offers young love and pubescent sexuality. At one point I actually thought, whoa -- this is Wes' version of The Blue Lagoon! But, no, it's much more. And much different.

Can this writer/director, shown at left, be mellowing? Why not? Most of us do. (Yes, of course: He was never Tarrantino-like or Gaspar Noé-esque. Still, compare this new film to Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums and you'll see what I mean.) I believe there is a kind of acceptance here, along with the usual, No, I won't, I won't, I can't fit in! Fortunately, there are enough of us film-goers internationally who probably feel all this, too, so that we embrace each new work with relish and delight. (For me, the least embraceable of his movies is The Life Aquatic; you'll probably disagree.)

Over the past few weeks we've been graced with three wonderful movies, the work of filmmakers who could never be mistaken for each other -- or anyone else. These are Whit Stillman (Damsels in Distress), Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America) and now Mr. Anderson. These three are among the most original (and certainly diverse) filmmakers we possess. While we should treasure them, TM thinks it's safe to say than among the three, only Mr. Anderson possesses real movie-making skills. Stillman and Goldthwait get by purely on their originality and daring, and the fact that no one is making anything like what they come up with. (Not to say they won't improve as filmmakers over time.)

Mr. Anderson, though, is a wonderful stylist, with such knowledge of editing, casting, acting, art direction, set design, credit sequences and all the rest (or at least he has the sense to hire the right people and give them their lead) that he is able to bring his visions to impeccable, if always odd, life. Some films sour; his generally soar. This one certainly does -- mostly in its quiet, deadpan manner, although the final half-hour does possess a rather exciting "boy's best adventure" quality.

Anderson has assembled his usual starry (independent-style) cast (above), beginning with Bruce WillisFrances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban and Tilda Swinton -- all of whom, I believe, are new to this director -- plus his usual suspects: Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. They perform with the skill and ability of a solid repertory ensemble.

As the town's single police officer, Willis in particular (shown above, right, with Ms McDormand), is just lovely, for the filmmaker mines the star's history of heroics and combines this with a new-found sweetness that works beautifully.

Norton (above, flanked by scouts) adds another singular portrait to his portfolio of riches, while Ms Swinton (below, with Murray) surprises by showing us, as she did in The Deep End, that she can appear absolutely real and normal, representing bureaucracy with the best of them.

Mr. Balaban, below, as the film's sort-of "narrator" uses his dead-pan delivery and elfin quality to great effect, filling us in on the fictitious town and its history, while only Mr Murray (above, left) seems a little wasted here, either not having been given much to do or not finding much special in it. No matter; this remains a strong ensemble supporting cast. The movie's real stars are elsewhere.

They are two new actors of wonderful visage and spirit: Jared Gilman (below) and Kara Hayward. Master Gilman, who looks like he could grow up to be Orson Welles, is a delight: full of energy and youthful arrogance (balanced with enough charm to defuse it).

Ms Hayward (below), is a young actress of odd, slightly "off," visual beauty that only adds to her appeal, and she -- as the female of the pair often does -- seems older, wiser and more generally mature than her goofy, sweet love interest.

Both characters come complete with family trauma, as we now expect from any Anderson film. But here they are given an array of kindly, older-consequently-wiser adults to guide them. Plus a director who so thoroughly understands what he is doing that he is able, as (almost) usual, to bring us and his movie home. I should also note how terrific is the film's use of music (the score is by Alexander Desplat). Anderson uses his classical selections in a manner exciting, eccentric and rich, just as he did using Joe Dassin to sing the sweet Aux Champs Elysées in The Darjeeling Limited.

Moonrise Kingdom, from Focus Features with a concise running time of 94 minutes, opens this Friday, May 25, in New York City at the AMC Lincoln Square and the Regal Union Square; in Los Angeles, look for it at The Landmark and Pacific's Arclight Hollywood. Over the next two weeks it will open across the country in another 15 to 20 cities. Click here to see the whole shebang.

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