Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) Roger Ebert (3 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Moonrise Kingdom (directed and cowritten by Wes Anderson along with Roman Koppola) is a gentle, stylized nostalgia piece set largely around a scout camp in the early 1960s on a small island (one imagines) somewhere just off the coast of Maine (or otherwise in the North Eastern United States).  The dialogue/performances are very earnest/deadpan even if as a result they often become very funny.   There's a star studded cast which includes Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. Willis in particular shines (softly) in a surprising role (for him) of playing a soft-spoken widowed policeman tasked with patrolling the island, and even if on an island that's "at the edge of the world" he's largely unnecessary, keeping it safe.

The story that plays out is largely driven by two twelve year olds: Sam Shanowski (played by Jared Gilman) an orphan in foster care, who's on the island for an extended summer camp and Suzy Bishop (played by Kara Hayward) who lives on the island with her parents Walt and Laura Bishop (played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand respectively) and brood of rather annoying younger brothers in a nice but rather isolated two story house.  The house stands next to the island's light house presumably far from everybody else living on the island.  Though living in this house at the edge of an island already at the edge of civilization, both of the elder Bishops were apparently lawyers.  So when they talked to each other, they tended to talk to each other in legalese.

There's clearly a lot of symbolism present in all this.  Consider that while Shanowski is presumably on the island for "summer camp," the filming is intentionally taking place in October (there's explicit mention of the time of year in the film and the leaves on the trees are all turning color and falling down) long after summer should have been over.  Then Suzi's parents were vested in three or even four layers of Authority -- first as Parents, then as parents of a family carrying the last name of Bishop, then presumably tending to the operation of the island's Light House (whose job is to shed Light on matters that would otherwise be hidden in Darkness) and finally both being Lawyers -- even as these super-authority figures have chosen to live out at the edge of nowhere and thus being authorities over no one except perhaps over their children... Indeed, both of these authority figures have issues of their own.  Walt drinks and Laura flirts with the island's policeman, the widowed Capt. Sharp (played by Bruce Willis).

Laura, seeing this dysfunction, even at 12 wants out.  Shanowski, with issues of his own (from losing his parents to having apparently a rather bad situation back in foster care during the rest of the year) wants out as well.  So after having briefly met the year before (the last time Shanowski was on the island) also for "camp", they apparently corresponded with each over the course of the year that followed, and given the chance now ... at the end of the summer a year later ... they decide to "fly the coop," (as Shanowski's kindly if rigid / somewhat "out of his depth" scout master Ward (played by Edward Norton) called it).  Much ensues ...

From the above explanation of the setup to the movie, it should be clear that while this movie is largely about two 12-year olds, it's really intended far more for adults rather than kids.  It gives adults, especially those who did spend a few summers at "camp,"  a chance to reminisce about both "simpler times" (as I kid I spent parts of three summers in scout camp, so it was nice to be given the opportunity to reminisce about those times again) and perhaps about times that weren't really so "simple."  Still, I would imagine that if I were a 12-year old watching this movie, I would be bored.  So keep this in mind while you decide whether you'd like to see this film.  However, if you are an adult and had spent a part of a summer or two in a scout camp (or perhaps even if you grew-up in the North East) then you might really enjoy this film.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up Dennis. Wes Anderson seems like he really brought his A-game to this story and it shows. Everything here just looks beautiful and works out perfectly that it easily has to on my list for best of the year so far. Hopefully Anderson can keep this up.