Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand
Runtime: 94 minutes

Moonrise Kingdom is the perfect antidote for these hot summer days. Light, vibrant and fun, Wes Anderson’s latest film takes us back to the days of being an adventurous kid.

The movie takes place in 1965 on a small New England island. There are no paved roads, and it is so sparsely populated that everyone knows each other. During the summer, the local “Khaki Scouts”, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), set up camp there. As the group of boy scouts work on their badges, one of them sneaks out and runs away. This errant child, Sam (Jared Gilman), has set off to secretly rendezvous with his local crush, Suzy (Kara Hayward), who has also run away from home. Both are outcasts in their social groups, and they have been eagerly awaiting their chance to be together since their random first encounter the previous summer.

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

Once the children are discovered to be missing, the island’s adults begin to panic. Scout Master Ward reaches out to police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and the two of them begin a search party with the rest of the scouts. Suzy’s parents, Walt and Laura (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, respectively), are also informed of the situation and join the others in seeking out the missing children.

At its core, Moonrise Kingdom is a story of young love. Sam and Suzy will do anything to be together, and their awkward transition from friendship to dating lends itself to some amusing moments. Although both characters exhibit traits of erratic behavior, they are eminently likable. Wes Anderson did an excellent job with his casting of these two young unknown leads, as they steal the show from the big name adults found in the rest of the cast. It helps to have Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray and others as support, but the children are more than capable in their roles. I will say, however, that it was a lot of fun to see guys like Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman dressed up as scout masters.

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

All of the familiar Wes Anderson traits are present here. He has succeeded in creating a colorful world that is unlike any other, and his trademark fashion selections are as wild and memorable as ever. For those who are less appreciative of his quirks, rest assured that Moonrise Kingdom is easily one of his most accessible feature films.

There were a few moments near the end of the film that I felt were a little too ridiculous (including one seemingly random lightning strike), but on the whole this is an especially enjoyable feature. This is a movie that anyone and everyone can enjoy, and it is one of the early summer highlights this year.

8/10

Movie Project #26: Rushmore [1998]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Rushmore [1998]

Rushmore [1998]
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams
Runtime: 93 minutes

I was a little worried about seeing Rushmore for the first time. I had yet to fall in love with a Wes Anderson film, aside from the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. But it had been years since seeing any of them, and my tastes have changed drastically since. What better movie to give Anderson another shot than with his much-loved Rushmore?

Jason Schwartzman stars as the 15-year-old Max Fischer, a student of Rushmore Academy who is more interested in joining every extracurricular activity available than improving his grades. After finding an intriguing Jacques Costeau quote in a library book, Max tracks down those who have checked it out in the past and eventually finds the culprit: Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), a widowed first grade teacher. Max befriends her but quickly falls in love.

In an attempt to win her over, Max connects with a millionaire steel magnate named Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Problem is, Blume begins to fall for Miss Cross as well. The two begin a back-and-forth battle to steal the teacher’s heart, with Max in particular becoming increasingly more drastic with his actions. The love triangle quickly spirals out of control.

Rushmore [1998]

Rushmore, in a nutshell, is quirky. Everything about the movie is awkward, from Max’s non-stop pestering of Miss Cross all the way down to his hilarious take as a theater director. What high school student other than Fischer would run stage productions of Serpico and Apocalypse Now? The movie has a unique brand of humor, no doubt, and it’s one that can divide audiences. I found myself chuckling quite a bit, but your mileage may vary.

One thing that surprised me about Rushmore that I really dug was its obvious homages to The Graduate, one of my favorite films from last year’s project. From the concept of a student/young male falling in love with a much older teacher all the way down to a scene where Blume cannonballs into a pool (much like Benjamin Braddock), it’s easy to see that Wes Anderson had this 1967 classic in mind while filming this.

Rushmore [1998]

I can’t place my finger as to what made me like Rushmore so much. There was nothing in particular that made me say “hey, this is a great movie” but I really enjoyed everything it threw at me. The soundtrack, full of classic 60s tunes, is well-curated, and everything about the film is eminently likable. Even Max Fischer, who would almost certainly be an annoying little twat in real life, is somehow charming. For that, I will give credit to the always enjoyable Schwartzman. Also, you simply can’t go wrong with Bill Murray, who obviously shines in this role.

I was torn between giving Rushmore a 7 or an 8. Ultimately, I have decided on the latter simply because I had a smile on my face as the movie ended. Anderson’s offbeat humor isn’t for everyone, but I quite enjoyed it in Rushmore. I’m ready to give him a second chance, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of his filmography.

8/10

Get Low [2010]

Get Low [2010]

Get Low [2010]
Director: Aaron Schneider
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

Don’t let the title fool you — this is not a film about Lil’ Jon & the East Side Boyz.

Get Low tells the tale of Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), a reclusive mountain man living in 1930’s Tennessee. One day he receives word that a past acquaintance died due to old age. This gets Felix to think about his own life and how he is near the end of the road himself. On a rare venture into town, he stops by the funeral home and makes an odd request: he wants to have a funeral for himself while he’s still alive. The funeral’s owner (Bill Murray) and his ever-ready understudy (Lucas Black) are dumbfounded by this question, but agree to throw him a “funeral party.” Bush’s goal for this party is for people to tell stories about him (since he has developed quite the reputation because of his living habits), and to finally tell the secret as to why he has been a recluse for the last 40 years.

I found this to be an interesting plot concept, and apparently it is based on a true story. However, I was initially intrigued by this movie largely due to its cast. Seriously, there are some masters at work here. Robert Duvall is excellent as an old hermit, effortlessly portraying a man who strikes terror to those who only know the urban legends, yet also showing a polite and witty man to those who get to know him. Bill Murray is also on the top of his game as the shady funeral director who will do anything for a quick buck (i.e. perform a funeral for a living man). Although there are questions about his character, the funeral director comes across as a likable guy, which is very much to Murray’s credit. I haven’t really seen much from Lucas Black before, but he holds his own against the legends, and I’m sure he had the time of his life on set with them. A couple other greats have small roles as well — Sissy Spacek plays an old flame who knew Felix way back in the day, and Bill Cobbs is a reverend who is perhaps the only person who actually knows Bush’s secret.

While the acting certainly shines, the movie itself is slow and takes its sweet time to really get anywhere. This isn’t a huge problem since it really is a delight to watch these actors on screen, but the script could have been livened up a bit. As one would expect, the party is hyped up throughout the movie. The funeral director spends significant time marketing the event and trying to get a large turnout, even getting Felix to appear on a radio show to help bring in people to tell stories about him. Unfortunately, by the time the party actually comes, it is a bit anticlimactic. The movie hypes up what will happen at the event, but doesn’t deliver on everything promised. I couldn’t help but feel a tad ripped off in the end.

Still, even with its shortcomings Get Low is a good first effort from director Aaron Schneider. A stronger script could have taken this movie to another level, but it does just enough to get by thanks to its fantastic cast.

7/10