Monday, August 13, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

I always question when talking about a movie with others who are less ardent moviegoers than I, if I should recommend they see an auteur's previous films before diving right in. Then again, how else are they supposed to experience a new style unless they do in fact just give it a go. I remember having these discussions when Quentin Tarantino made Inglourious Basterds, when Terrence Malick made The Tree of Life, or when Nicolas Winding Refn made Drive. If David Lynch was more active I'd probably be using him as a prime example as well. This is not to say that filmmakers like Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg have cornered the market on noted stylistic directors who've passed through the mainstream, but their flourishes are disguised or blended with more recognizeable genre conventions that the average public is familiar with.

I only mention all of this because when I talk about Moonrise Kingdom with someone who has yet to see the film, I'm immediately debating whether I should talk about Wes Anderson. An article from They Shoot Pictures Don't They? or Sight & Sound could do a better job of pinpointing every exact aspect of the man's directorial vision (and his influences- Orson Welles, Hal Ashby, Martin Scorsese, etc.), but I'll just say that despite the similar themes and tropes, I still walk away from each of his films with a different feeling. His style and voice haven't changed all that much as many who have discussed Moonrise Kingdom are quick to point out, but perhaps that is because Anderson is so distinct and noticeable that you are immediately curious as to how Wes Anderson'ey a new Wes Anderson film is going to be. The fact that I walked away from Moonrise Kingdom feeling like I've just experienced something special and unique I think is testament enough that Anderson doesn't necessarily have to change his perceived voice. The style is his, but the experience is our own.

At a glance, Moonrise Kingdom is a tale of innocence lost. A classic theme for many stories involving child protagonists and yet... Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzie (Kara Hayward) have a sense of maturity to them, but they are still children. One has to credit Wes Anderson and his co-writer Roman Coppola for the colorful characters in their script (and as fellow Anderson fans know, the word "colorful" doesn't do them justice). So much detail is given to Sam and Suzie as characters that we as the audience can appreciate their romance, but thanks to Anderson's style we can also recognize the fantastical nature of it all. An example of that would be that they are entering the hurricane of adolesence as adults race to find them before a literal storm destroys the coast of their 1960s New England isle. Ad one cooky and crazy sequence after another (all being enhanced by Robert Yeoman's most "showman" cinematography to date) and Anderson blends the emotional and character-driven story that he has concocted into his stylistic blend of homages and originality.

The great thing about all of this is that I'm still drawn to the characters first and foremost. For all of the talk about Anderson's diaroma-esque shots, his films also resemble a diorama in an emotional sense. We are able to follow these detailed characters through these situations and have a sense of the space they take to evolvet or de-evolve through their respective arcs and changes. Having two new performers play the title roles completely works to the film's advantage as no matter how good an actor the others such as Edward Norton and Bruce Willis can be as Hayward and Gilman bring a complete fresh-faced auroa to the movie. The characters and their love-struggle is full of sullen tragedy and ironic humor that feels real and true no matter how fantastical the surroundings become.

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