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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 23
Spellbinding Kingdom a land of inspired plenty
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Spellbinding Kingdom a land of inspired plenty

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

MOONRISE KINGDOM
Opens June 8


On a tiny island off the New England coast, 12- year- olds Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) have decided to run away into the wilderness. It is the summer of 1965, and Khaki Scout leader Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) is beside himself that one of his charges has disappeared, while on the flip side of things parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand) cannot believe their beautiful, if slightly odd, daughter would do such a crazy thing. It is up to local police chief Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to round up the two wayward youngsters and bring them back to those purportedly in charge - no small task considering a major storm is heading for the island and help from the Khaki Scout troop or from the Bishops themselves isn't proving fruitful.

There's more, of course, including Bob Balaban narrating the proceedings, Harvey Keitel as the militaristic titular head of the Khaki Scouts, Jason Schwartzman as conniving Uncle Ben, and Tilda Swinton as the frigid embodiment of Social Services - all of which is fully to be expected in a wildly flippant frolic sprung from the mind of director Wes Anderson.

What isn't as anticipated is just how jovial his latest, Moonrise Kingdom, is, how fully it embraces the nature and rapturous aura of young love. The filmmaker, working once again with The Darjeeling Limited co- writer Roman Coppola, captures a mood and a sensation that is as immediate as it is universal.

I'm not entirely sure how much more to say. Like most Anderson products, the style of the piece is immediately identifiable. It's evident in the very first frames that this is the same man who brought forth Rushmore, who handled The Royal Tenenbaums, who put so much energy in effort into the wildly uneven The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and soared to new heights with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The European New Wave leanings of Robert D. Yeoman's (Bridesmaids) cinematography, the slightly off- center pebbledashes of Adam Stockhausen's (Scream 4) production design and Gerald Sullivan's (Youth in Revolt) art direction, all of it works in sensational tandem, Anderson again crafting an esoteric milieu fitting the era and the time he's working in, yet also feeling as if it were sprung from a particularly inventive picture book.

Which in many ways is exactly the point. As things progress, Suzy slowly finds herself transforming into an erstwhile Wendy Darling, telling stories to a gaggle of fellow youngsters, all of them looking up at her in mesmerized bliss. As for Sam, in many ways he is Peter Pan, refusing to grow up but learning vital life lessons as he treads down a path of responsibility and maturation he's not remotely ready for. It's like they've all stepped through to the other side of the Looking Glass while heading to Neverland, and found themselves stranded in a Hundred Acre Wood of their own feverish imagination, with all the adults looking on trying to figure out what's happened.

It was pretty risky to anchor an entire film upon two newcomers in Gilman and Hayward, neither of whom had any cinematic experience before Anderson cast them here. Yet it is a risk that pays off, the director's camera lingering over the pair in a way that is blissfully relatable. Both showcase shocking chemistry, not just with each other but with the other actors as well. Hayward, in particular, has the ability to mesmerize like a newly pubescent Cheshire Cat, her lingering gaze so bewitching she almost doesn't need a single line of dialogue to amaze.

Moonrise Kingdom has the potential to be a movie I'll be pondering, mulling over, and thinking about for the remainder of 2012. Heck, it might even enter into the upper echelon of the Wes Anderson canon, joining Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox - films I already consider modern classics. This movie is a haunting paean to who we were as youngsters, who we wanted to be as adolescents, and who we imagine we might still become as adults. For that reason alone, I'm ready to declare it a masterwork.

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