Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom: Le Temps De L'Amour

"C'est le temps de l'amour,
Le temps des copains et de l'aventure" ~ Françoise Hardy
Wes Anderson has always elevated awkward and geek over certainty and cool. In his best films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, he's defended the bullied kids on the playground by celebrating the quirks that inspired the animus of the insecure creeps in the first place. As Anderson's films show, the real losers are the bullies, not the bullied.

His new film, Moonrise Kingdom, continues to champion the geek cause and is best when its focus stays on the relationship between awkward tweens, Suzy and Sam. Both Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are perfect in their roles as sweet, misunderstood castaways in search of some love and kindness. One of the film's best scenes involves the two dancing to Françoise Hardy's "Le Temps de l'Amour" on the beach in their underwear. It's a giddy expression of the love they've recently discovered in one another.

It's when Anderson tries too hard to inject a backstory involving abuse and neglect that Moonrise Kingdom sinks. Twee doesn't accommodate angst very well. The attempt at heavy drama is trivialized and ends up weighing down the film's buoyant narrative arc. We don't need any "Troubled Child" pamphlets or cheap flashbacks to a hellish orphanage to care about these kids. It's as though Anderson loses faith in his own characters and tries to explain them rather than allow their glorious imperfections to shine through of their own accord.

It's never a good sign when aesthetics overtake substance. Anderson's notorious fixation on colour schemes and mise en scène particulars soon become all too apparent and Moonrise Kingdom's story gets washed away in mustard and olive references. And apart from the aforementioned "Le Temps de l'Amour," even his usually inspired soundtrack choices seem out of place: Hank Williams Sr. and the boy scouts just don't mix. So see Moonrise Kingdom not for any heavy drama, but for the sweetness of witnessing a budding pubescent romance and for the hilarity of watching Bruce Willis keep a straight face in a pair of floods.

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