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Moonrise Kingdom - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Moonrise Kingdom
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

Like pretty much all Wes Anderson films before it, Moonrise Kingdom is excessively enamored with its own quirkiness. If it could bathe in its own quirks, whipping them into a lather and smothering itself with it, this movie would do it. It kind of does anyway.

Particularly in the beginning, it makes you think: this is specifically why people either get Wes Anderson or they don't. He has a peculiar, signature style, from which he really never strays. It's all about style and production design and sideways tracking shots and strikingly detailed dioramas. Shot after shot is like looking at a museum piece. If Anderson tapped more deeply into the psyche of Americana, you might imagine one of these sets in the Smithsonian. Except really, he doesn't get that deep. It's all about aesthetics.

Or so you think! Because this is the thing. Just when you think Moonrise Kingdom is yet another one-trick Anderson cinema trope, it sideswipes you with truly unexpected bursts of heart. Something deeper actually emerges, even as the self-consciously quirky visuals remain consistent. It's no longer just an amusing trifle about kids who run away on their island home and the odd adults that populate their lives. This is actually a story worth caring about.

And I mean that as the deepest compliment, considering how much the movie has to overcome. Most notably: the child actors. Their performances, never in the least bit natural, border on grating a great deal of the time. There's always this deliberateness to their deadpan delivery, making them weirdly fantastical rather than in any way realistic. Tweens don't behave this way. We have Jared Gilman as Sam, the orphan who offers his "resgination" to his Scout troupe; and Kara Hayward as Suzy, the "troubled" teen he seduces into running away with him via pen pal letters. They both always come across like they are reciting lines. In their defense, it feels very much like Wes Anderson told them to perform that way.

The adults are a different story. Bill Murray and France McDormand as Suzy's parents; Bruce Willis as the local island police officer; Edward Norton as the scout leader; Tilda Swinton (my favorite here) as Social Services -- these guys are all not so much deadpan as deftly understated. They slowly reveal themselves to be flawed yet compelling individuals, as they stumble through their attempts at locating the runaway children.

The kids can't possibly get very far: they live on an island, after all. The first half or so of the movie consists of the kids surviving on Sam's scouting skills and the rest of the island -- including the rest of the scout troupe, none of whom like Sam -- in pursuit. This would be a much lesser movie if that were only as far as it went, but then the children are found, and the adults have to figure out what to do with them. After all, Sam and Suzy are convinced they are in love. They even get another scout leader (Anderson mainstay Jason Schwartzman) to perform a wedding ceremony for them.

Oh, and did I mention there's a huge rainstorm coming? This sort of backdrop is nothing new in the movies, but Anderson certainly makes it his own here. Nowhere else will you see rushing floods of water bursting onto the scene in decidedly Anderson-like ways. And there's really no other way to put that.

The weird thing is, even the kids with their almost ironically wooden performances somehow manage to be charming in the end. Rare is the movie with so much to irritate that subverts itself to become its own brand of lovely. Everything converges to a wonderfully exciting -- yet quirky -- climax. This is a movie that proves "quirky" is overdone and then manages to out-quirk itself to such a degree that it circles back to being satisfying.

Of course, you have to be open to it to begin with. It's easy to see this movie being hated by some. I started off thinking it would be a bit tired. And then, miraculously, it worked. For me, anyway.

Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis are befuddled by the kids in MOONRISE KINGDOM.

Overall: B+
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