Saturday, June 23, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom: Made of Summer

Moonrise Kingdom, a film by Wes Anderson, opened at Cannes and then sneaked around select theatres for several weeks before it moved into a mainstream release.  It arrived in Spokane last night, and we caught the 4:45 showing.

The film follows the romance between a girl and boy that culminates in the summer of 1965 when they run away--he from the scout camp on the other end of the island from where she lives: in Summer's End, and she from her three brothers and parents who live in a house of separate rooms and lives.  The camp leader, played by Edward Norton, and the boy's fellow scouts are in hot pursuit, as well as the girl's parents (played by Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton), and the local police officer (Bruce Willis).

The film is beautiful and perfect, from the cinematography (as though a series of painted photographs circa 1960s) to the acting to the script.  Throughout the film, Anderson creates small details that, altogether, maintain and create the verisimilitude of childhood: for example, in the flashback that explains how the boy and girl met, the boy leaves the church-play about Noah's Ark midway through to go wandering about the church, and along his way walking past the children who are lined up outside, two-by-two, and waiting for their turn to enter the stage. As the boy passes he idly tweaks the nose of one of the elephants and a few moments later he's walking through a basement and as he passes a water fountain, he turns it on--not for a drink but just because.  Then, in parting a rack of costumes, he comes face to face with the girl who is sitting at the make-up counter, with other girls dressed as birds.  What kind of bird are you? he asks.

It is perhaps the culmination of all of these small, purposeful details within moments that make Moonrise Kingdom excellent, for there is no single moment that makes the movie, perhaps because there are so many to choose from--such as the girl bringing a suitcase of books that she later reads aloud from (reminiscent of Wendy from Peter Pan), and a kitten in a fishing basket for her runaway gear, to the boy taking the time and care to make a log of all the objects she brought, to the woman from social services (the boy is an orphan) referring to herself as Social Services.

Real thought has gone into this movie, and it is clear that Wes Anderson and his co-writer, Roman Coppola, believe that children are real human beings whose lives, tragedies, and loves are to be taken seriously.  That is, the film sees little difference between the seriousness children regard life with and the seriousness adults regard life with.  The adults are, as in most subversive children's literature, rather bumbling and behave with less reason than the children.  The movie is playful throughout, and the experience of watching it is often like being given a delightful thing carefully wrought by grinning children.  It's a pleasure.

Moonrise Kingdom is a smart, beautiful film--full of ache and summer, and a desire for freedom from a world that keeps sending hurricanes and lightning.