Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

The eloping lovers.

I have always been fond of Wes Anderson's works but, strangely, was never entirely awed by any of them. Personally, I find his works more to be testaments in great character handling rather than pieces that truly exemplify great storytelling. Perhaps it's just a matter of taste. 

I commenced watching "Moonrise Kingdom" with zero expectations. Yes, although many reviewers are already branding it (and maybe quite prematurely at that) as one of the true best films of the year, I have veered myself away from that perspective simply because I do not want to be disappointed. But hell, them reviewers were right; "Moonrise Kingdom" is indeed something really, really special and, to some extent, even quite spectacular. I have never really thought that I would ever describe a Wes Anderson as something that oozes 'spectacle' but there you go. Wes, the truest hipster filmmaker out there, has just upped his ante, and it's something that's worthy of some genuine celebration. 

On one side, there's Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Bill Murray (as always). On the other, there's Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and some surprising bits of Harvey Keitel. Though Wes Anderson is really not known for casting unknown actors to play his ever-quirky characters, "Moonrise Kingdom's" ensemble cast is just awe-inspiring. 

The story concerns the emotional misadventures of two troubled pre-adolescents (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), their budding romance, and their subsequent decision to run away from their parents in the name of whatever their concept of love is. For a film that's focused mainly on two young, peculiar lovers' awkward elopement, the film's cast is amazingly heavyweight. But "Moonrise Kingdom's" screenplay (penned by Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson himself), although not as articulately weird as some of Anderson's previous efforts, is very strong and emotionally direct that it has rendered the supporting adult characters to be as essential (sometimes even more so) as the two young ones. In hindsight, with the film's patented tableau-like sequences and a musical score that sarcastically serenades the abundance of dry wit and dark humor in it, "Moonrise Kingdom" seems to be treading the usual path towards a very typical Wes Anderson film, which may also result on a slight frustration on my part as a viewer. 

But with every film, Wes Anderson seems to be bent on constantly topping himself by taking on a more ambitious, visionary and expansive palette than the last. From India ("The Darjeeling Limited") to the woods ("The Fantastic Mr. Fox"), he is capable enough to create his creatively personal and quasi-fantastical versions of these environments. In "Moonrise Kingdom's case, he has successfully outdone himself even more. Aside from the fact that he has conjured up the fictional island of New Penzance out of thin air, he has also creatively integrated a detailed description of its terrains by way of the narrator (played by Bob Balaban), a short, gray-bearded man who enters and exits scenes for no apparent pattern and reason. 

Serving as the arena for the two young lovers' mutual, albeit strange affection, New Penzance, as the story progresses, also seems to take on a character of its own. Aside from the populating characters whose offbeat demeanors paint the whole island with faded hues, the island has its own air of life that's quite reminiscent of some far away fairy tale lands. This is the kind of place where fantasy and reality has once figuratively met, made love and subsequently separated in bitter, contemptuous tears. New Penzance, despite of its visual serenity, is a place of colorful anomaly. It is an island of bittersweet desperation and tender angst. It is a haven of regret and love both at its faintest whisper and most thunderous cry. 

Without much pretense in dialogue and eccentricity in characters (the characters in this film are, by far, the most conventional of all Wes Anderson films), Wes Anderson was finally able to subtly connect with me by just letting his visuals and his sweet tale of naïve love utter the things that are otherwise unspeakable by the tongue. To some extent, "Moonrise Kingdom" has even reawakened the quiet poet and the adventurous camper within me. Finally, I have found the Wes Anderson film that I am looking for. On second thought, maybe it's the one that has found me.


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