Starring: Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Jared Gilman, Kara Haywood, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban and Harvey Keitel.
Running Time: 94 mins. approx.
Seen At: Didsbury.
On: Thursday, 7th June, 2012.
It’s a real auteur’s year at this year’s Cannes, with a diverse and wide-ranging programme of films from a selection of very high profile filmmakers, including David Cronenberg, (Cosmopolis) Micheal Hanake, and Ken Loach, (The Angel’s Share) – as well as an adaptation of the literary classic On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
The film which opened this year’s festival, is Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s quirky latest. I thoroughly enjoyed his 1998 breakout movie Rushmore, and of course I was utterly charmed, marveling at the meticulously detailed sets in his delightful, stop-motion animated take on Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009.
With this newest project, I’m most happy to comment that his unique eye for the smallest perfectionist intricacies, is a trait that is very much included here, along with several other Anderson-esque trademarks. These can be the camera often being positioned ever so slightly low-angle (to make the adults appear more authoritative over the children, when the reality is most likely exactly the opposite), the occasional ‘swish’ of a whip-pan, shots that are frequently static - a refreshing style of cinematography whereby the camera really doesn’t move all that much – and of course, a real flair for choosing the appropriate soundtrack to accompany the utterly unique and always artful visuals.
Here for example, the film (set on the island of New Penzance in 1965), opens with the epic fugue of Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, as we’re introduced to the house and family of Kara Haywood’s Susie Bishop, an intelligent but unfulfilled teenage girl. Desperate to break free from the monotony, she’s secretly planning to elope with a young orphaned boy named Sam McKlusky, (Jared Gilman), who attends a scouting camp run by it’s leader, Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton).
When the pair of youngsters do indeed go missing, (‘Jiminy Cricket he flew the coop’, remarks Ward, incredulously), it’s up to Bruce Willis’s bespectacled Deputy Sharp to head up a search party, but an austere administrator cloaked in navy blue, known elusively only as Social Services, stands in their way…
It’s quirky, kooky and often quietly funny, particularly the moment when Bill Murray as Walt, Suzy’s embittered father, tears down the wooden tent the two have built together.
The screenplay’s dialogue often dazzles with a knowing sense for fizzy comedy. As the leader of the agency flies over a lightening-stricken rainstorm, her pilot announces: ‘Hang in there Social Services!’. Or when Walt’s wife Laura (movingly played by a subtle Frances McDormand), asks through a megaphone: ‘Does it concern you that your daughter’s just run away from home?’ he calmly replies: ‘That’s a loaded question’.
The setup, is to take a starry, big-name cast, in an ensemble piece, each playing the role of idiosyncratic, oddball characters.
It’s for these reasons mainly, that the film this is most reminiscent of, is The Coen Bros. outstanding 2008 comedy Burn After Reading, my favourite Coen Bros. movie. Incidentally, both movies star Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. They’re also both fast-paced, economically edited and employ all the precision-skill of expert directors.
The performances here, are all fantastic - from the adult supporting cast to the two young leads.
The always exceptional Tilda Swinton is especially superb, stealing the show as the hilariously imposing Social Services, while Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are also brilliant. Schwartzman appears as the Scout Chaplin in sunglasses!
Bruce Willis certainly looks very different compared to in the eighties action blockbusters that he’s associated with, and Edward Norton brings a very likable quality to Scoutmaster Ward, which makes him the character that the audience will empathize with and relate to the most. Bob Balaban’s narrator more than slightly resembles a little, knowledgeable garden gnome in his red overcoat and bottle-green bobble-hat!
It’s also great to see Harvey Keitel, who also has a brief role. It’s a movie jam-packed full of stars, each of whom play their roles perfectly.
Remember to stay throughout the closing credits when Jared Gilman breaks down the role of each instrument used in Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra. This is a lovely, light, final touch in a film that’s refreshing, niche, often wonderfully amusing and a delight to watch. Expect it to triumph at awards season next year!
Rating: * * * *