Moonrise Kingdom is coming to theaters in a much wider release this Friday. Cinema Siren places this film as one of the top of 2012, and shows in this case the director's genius for creating a mythic, nostalgic world vaguely tethered to reality that is thoroughly engaging and wholly charming.
Wes Anderson's latest and best effort stars two newcomers as young lovers running away together who must be found before a historic storm reaches landfall on the isolated island that is their 1965 home. Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are all players in the ensemble cast of this wonderful, quirky, coming-of-age charmer about love, risk and acceptance.
I've never been a Wes Anderson devotee. The director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Bottle Rocket, among others, is known for his obsessive attention to detail, tending to everything from the most flamboyant character portrayal to the tiny physical elements throughout each scene.
He is indeed masterful at integrating character and environment to create a world that combines cynicism, quirk and whimsy unique to his films. His films can emit a precious, overly clever hipper-than-thou vibe that is at best off-putting, at worst, ruinous to a film. However, when he keeps his razor sharp focus more on story and less on tidbits of hipster slice-of-life, his work becomes charmingly hard to resist.
Case in point is his recent film The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which in that regard seemed to be a portent of great things on the horizon. How wonderful for audiences that Anderson has trained his talents on this strange mix of the authentic and the fantastical, as in the young love, which will likely recall fond yet bittersweet memories for many viewers, and the many exaggerated or myth-like elements used in the flood and the lightning storm.
The whole movie feels like an ever-expanding family story being told by that expert yarn-spinning uncle so good at his retelling you want to hear it, even for the umpthteen time.
The production design of Moonrise Kingdom celebrates the mid-'60s colors with a palette that recalls old family photos, and the bizarre, utterly believable script and dialogue celebrate that painful beautiful first love, how it seemed to mean the beginning and the end of the world all at the same time.
The kids are at once precocious and innocent. It's like touring a Norman Rockwell exhibit while blaring Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" (which is also featured in the film) on your headphones. The two teenaged leads, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are spectacular. After this film, Hayward in particular will likely have ingenue scripts hurled at her from every corner in Hollywood.
Those who stick to uber-realistic films and don't enjoy indie quirk in their film diet, give this one a pass. However, maybe you are looking for the anti-blockbuster…some little charming indie tale to delight the heat out of you and warm those nostalgic memories of youth hiding in the dark recesses of your heart.
In that case, and if you'd love to see a great coming-of-age movie, Moonrise Kingdom is just the ticket. It belongs on a short list along with greats like Stand By Me and The Sandlot.
You'll walk out remembering that as a kid you believed love could conquer all, and we can all do with a reminder like that.
About this column: Leslie Combemale, "Cinema Siren", is a movie lover and aficionado in Northern Virginia. Alongside Michael Barry, she owns ArtInsights, an animation and film art gallery in Reston Town Center. She has a background in film and art history. She often is invited to present at conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con, where she has been a panelist for The Art of the Hollywood Movie Poster and the Harry Potter Fandom discussion. Visit her gallery online atwww.artinsights.com and see more of her reviews and interviews on www.artinsightsmagazine.com.