Sep 052012

Author: Kenneth Myers

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (Photo credit: AlizeeLafon)

There’s a problem with storytelling, nearly everyone writes love into their stories. While love can be and is a central aspect of many stories, it is far more often an extra element, a sideline story that means nothing and does nothing for the audience. Basing your story entirely around love in a movie, without the excellent actors with impeccable chemistry and a masterpiece of a script a love story invariably falls flat on its face. The goal is to not only make your audience believe the love between the two characters, but feel it for themselves.

Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s most recent film, it follows two young people escaping the yoke of parents and scout masters into the wilderness of a small New England island. When I saw the trailer I feared for the movie’s potential, so much could so easily drag the film into mediocrity. None of it did.

First and foremost, Anderson made a courageous decision. He put nearly the entire weight of the movie on two very young actors. They carry it without ever faltering. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play the story’s protagonists: Suzy and Sam, and this being a love story, are center stage for most of the story. There are a few hiccups, their performances aren’t perfect, but their characters love each other, you believe that and can’t help but feel it. Individually they have their issues, but together the two establish a relationship that feels more real than any other I’ve seen.

The supporting cast each uses a minimal amount of screen time to construct a character that contrasts the innocence and inherent goodness of the main love story. When Sam leaves his scout camp in the film’s opening, he unleashes a few monsters. First and foremost, Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward is silly, awkward and overall there for comic relief. Three traits I have never  seen and never thought I would associate with Edward Norton, all three of which he pulls off well. His missing scout has put his belief in himself in serious question Tilda Swinton makes an appearance at the beginning of the third act, only ever referred to as “Social Services”, she acts as something of an antagonist and is, as usual, deadpan and hilarious. The most important facet of the supporting cast is made up by Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Bill Murray. Murray and McDormand play Suzy’s parents and get very little time to establish their characters but together are characterized by their actions toward and reactions to Bruce Willis as the island’s lone police officer, tasked to locate the protagonists. We get a very complete picture of a character who, though intelligent and caring, is alone. Willis broke my heart at one point in this movie, I wasn’t prepared for that. his part in his own love story makes up the tragic elements of the story and is just as well told if not better told than the main love story.

A couple important notes: as per Anderson’s prior works this movie is beautifully shot. Harvey Keitel makes a short cameo (he, like Murray, deserved more screen time), this movie is not in wide release which is an unqualified disaster.

Moonrise Kingdom is the most difficult movie to review, so good I cannot think of a single thing I didn’t like. It is excellent in every sense of the word, a true masterpiece. Easily my favorite movie of 2012 thus far. It even beat out The Avengers. See it.

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