Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - a review

Moonrise Kingdom seems to be the kind of movie that will appeal to Wes Anderson fans, those who appreciate his idiosyncratic shooting style:  lots of perfectly arranged diorama like shots with lots of precise placement of actors, background and setting that then tracks or pans to another perfectly arranged view.  The performances are just this side of false, (as opposed to true), all the actors cavorting in an Andersonville style of acting that's quite theatrical.  In fact, theatrical is a good description of his overall approach.

I found the style a bit tiresome in his earlier movies, though in Moonlight Kingdom, he's finally come up with a story that actually lends itself to this shooting style.

My quarrel with many of his previous films is that his visual style felt imposed upon the story.  What I do admire about it is that he's been able to keep his idiosyncratic approach to story, performance and visual style intact while having a Hollywood career aided by some of the biggest stars.

In Moonlight Kingdom, Bruce Willis and Bill Murray buy in to Anderson's odd approach to acting, which is hard to define, but easy to see.  There's an archness to everyone's performance, based on timing and size, rather than truth.  It's not necessarily inappropriate, but like everything in an Anderson film, the performances seem imposed, rather than revealed.  But they are definitely entertaining.  Edward Norton and Harvey Keitel, (who I once acted with), are notable as a pair of Scoutmasters, (working in troops that appear to be full time paramilitary operations rather than any Scouts I remember belonging to.)

The story is fairly simple.  One of Norton's troop runs off to be with a young girl who lives on the island where this takes place, the daughter of Bill Murray's character.  They escape together to the far reaches of the island pursued by the island's sole police officer, Bruce Willis, a harridan of a social services agent Tilda Swinton as well as Norton and his scout troop.  Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as the girl's beleaguered parents are arch comic-relief, though since most of the film appears to be comic, I mean that they don't have a lot to do other than bellow at Bruce Willis and Edward Norton.

The two kids who play the runaways are excellent and somehow their archness comes off as totally appropriate in the sense of the seriousness by which children play make-believe.  They hold their own with the Hollywood heavyweights.

In the end the film is interesting for its mise-en-scene more than its impact.  The tone is kind of fantastical and emotionless.  For example, when his beloved dog gets shot by an arrow through the neck, the young boy is oddly fatalistic about it.  I think it's all meant to be funny, but for me remained hamstrung in a kind of surreal make believe world where nothing really is at stake.

If you've seen Anderson's other films, and are a fan, then this will probably be his finest for you.  If you don't get his sensibility, then this one might be the easiest to buy into for you.

I still prefer Mr. Fox and His Friends.  Animal puppets behaving humanly is the way Anderson's imposed style works best.

1 comment:

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