Saturday, June 30, 2012

Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Some would say that Wes Anderson is an acquired taste, but I do not think that is necessarily the case.  More than any other director working today, save for perhaps Tim Burton, Anderson is the most likely candidate to be voted most likely to never change.  Looking back on the director's films, from Bottle Rocket to Rushmore to The Royal Tanenbaums to The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited and even Fantastic Mr. Fox, a huge amount of cinematic growth is not readily seen in such an oeuvre.  Anderson has used the same tricks and tropes for pretty much his entire filmmaking career, and especially since Tanenbaums, you can tell a Wes Anderson film from frame one.  Now I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, for I personally like the tricks and tropes of Anderson's filmmaking style, but it is something that is a constant, seemingly unaltered affectation of sorts.  Some say that we need either change or die, and if that were indeed so, than the films of Wes Anderson may be killing the man.  This also means that Wes Anderson is not an acquired taste so much as an all-or-nothing kind of personality.  You either get the man, and his films, from the very start, or you do not get them at all.  Which brings us to Moonrise Kingdom.

The director's ninth feature film, Moonrise Kingdom is most assuredly a Wes Anderson film from frame one, and to those who like and get Wes Anderson, that is a good thing.  For those others...well, there are lots of other films to see right now.  Telling a story that is probably more akin to Rushmore than to the director's more recent fare, Anderson's whimsical tale of childhood passions for adventure figuratively explodes with the unique and colourful palette of those same said more recent works.  Basically a visual director - save for Tanenbaums in a way, no one will ever mistake Anderson's films for having deep resonating screenplays - Anderson's sharp-edged confectionery look lends to this storied childhood passion for adventure.  The film stars Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, as well as Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban, and featuring newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Haywood as those passion-filled children.   In line with director's such as Bresson, Kubrick and Godard, Anderson's films have a narrative straightforwardness that tend to offput many filmgoers who are looking for a more emotional catharsis at the movies, but this style also lends itself to the filmmaker's kind of storytelling.  Now of course Anderson is nowhere near the talent of these three particular filmmakers, but one can surely see a kinship in their way of making an artificial reality spring to life on the screen.

It is this faux reality that has created an alternate universe to our rather commonplace one.  It is this faux reality that has made the director comparable, if not in ability then at least in visual candor, to those aforementioned influences.   It is this very faux reality that has made Anderson's oeuvre what it is.  Now depending on whom you speak with, this is a good thing or it is a bad thing.  I suppose I am in that good thing camp.  Granted, other than Rushmore and The Royal Tanenbaums, my own personal opinion on the auteur's work is that of a one-trick-ponydom outlook.  Yes, I happen to like this particular one trick, but still, a bit of artistic stretching now and again would certainly help Anderson reach any higher level of filmmaking, and perhaps even draw the director a touch closer to the aforementioned influences of Bresson, Kubrick and Godard.  In the end, Moonrise Kingdom lies somewhere in the middle of all this one-trick-ponydom.   Not near good, or broad enough to be comparable to The Royal Tanenbaums, which probably goes down as the director's magnum opus if the director were to have a magnum opus, nor as charmingly versatile to be another Rushmore, but still a fun time had by all.  Well at least a fun time by all those who can appreciate a filmmaker such as Wes Anderson.  If you do not, well like I said earlier, there are many other films out there to watch instead of this one.

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