Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Man on Film: Moonrise Kingdom

It's been quite some time since I saw this one, and I'll start things off by saying that my feelings were mixed. At one point, Wes Anderson was probably the working director whose next work I most looked forward to. Unfortunately, the more I grew up, the more he stayed the same. This difference has become increasingly clear as his last two films have been a stop-motion animation flick about an adolescent fox and now a summer camp movie about a 12-year-old orphan in love.

As with The Fantastic Mr. Fox, this film is cute and probably more effective than the last two "adult" films Anderson directed. There is also a certain allowance one must make when walking into the theater to see a Wes Anderson film. It will have a very distinct look and feel; its characters will be emotionally damaged and stunted; and there will be daddy issues. While Moonrise Kingdom does mostly succeed in what it sets out to do, one has to wonder if this is not because Anderson has set the film's protagonists as precocious 12-year-olds who are then called upon to convey the only depth of emotions that the auteur himself is capable of reaching. Their sentiments ring truer, in part, it would seem precisely because the writer/director is largely stuck in that place.

Moonrise Kingdom does suffer from being too precocious and cute. Its unknown stars, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are what they are meant to be, and both are atypically outstanding for child actors, but both are used in such a way as to imply a sexuality that is frankly a bit unnerving. While they both remain sexually innocent, there exists within the film a gaze that borders on uncomfortable voyeuristic objectification of minors, as they are both clad in their underwear while on their getaway--an off-putting element of the film to be sure. When found by her father (played by Bill Murray, who reprises the role of neutered man in a loveless marriage that he played in The Royal Tenenbaums), they are donning that attire and sleeping together, innocently as it may have been.

Again, the film does mostly succeed in being what it attempts to be, and it is hard to fault a filmmaker for not being something he is not. It is just sad to see an auteur with such tools fail to realize a greater potential in favor of being a developmentally arrested genius fixated on his junior high years and a strained relationship with his father.

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