Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, L.J. Foley, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jake Ryan, Charlie Kilgore, Neal Huff
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Directed by: Wes Anderson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and smoking
Running Time: 94
Date: 16/05/2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Through a Child's Eyes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Three years ago, writer and director Wes Anderson created an amazing animated children's film, Fantastic Mr. Fox. In his latest effort, the delightful Moonrise Kingdom, he has made a film about children. In some ways, Anderson has always made movies about children, whether they were high school students, as in Rushmore, or simply lost, confused men, still looking for what they want to be when they grow up.

It could be argued, then, that Moonrise Kingdom is therefore his most honest movie to date, and it also contains arguably his two most mature characters. Sam (Jared Gilman) is a bespectacled 12 year-old Khaki Scout. He spots Suzy (Kara Hayward), also 12, while she's dressed as a raven for a church play. They begin exchanging letters and form a strong bond.

They decide to run away together, using Sam's wilderness skills to live on a remote corner of their island home. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) organizes a search party of other Khaki Scouts to find Sam. Suzy's parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), are likewise concerned, and the local policeman, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), gets involved. (Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban also turn up in juicy little roles.)

Though Sam and Suzy are both "troubled" kids, they seem to get along just fine. Their adventure contains many lovely and bittersweet moments, as when Suzy reads from her beloved books (stolen from the library), or the runaways listen to records and dance on the beach. In one remarkable scene, they catch a turtle only to discover that someone has written on its shell.

It's really the grownups that have imposed their sadness, disappointments and insecurities on the world of the children. Anderson better illustrates this gap between child and grownup with his costume choices. He continually draws attention to the children's eyes, with eyeglasses, eyeliner, and binoculars, while the grownups are mostly stuck with funny pants.

Other motifs in the film include references to the story of Noah's Ark, with its promise of creatures pairing up and starting over after a strong rain washes everything clean. Anderson weaves all these ideas and moods together into a beautiful outdoor tapestry, touched by fog and sea and open fields and accompanied by sad, silly music. Anderson's gift is that he can see the beauty in sadness, and understands the humor in all of it. And he lets us see it too.
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