Anyone remember the 1971 film And Now for Something Completely Different that was a spin-off of the timeless Monty Python’s Flying Circus? “Something different” is certainly what director Wes Anderson has served up in his newest and most fantastical film, Moonrise Kingdom, and it is a constant joy to behold.
If there was ever a welcome antidote for the endless, mindless tedium that summer films have produced of late, this is the ticket into a universe that will delight and surprise even the most jaded and bored of movie-going palettes.
The film, which opened the recent 65th Cannes Film Festival, is daringly inventive in ways that have brought about accusations of “too-clever,” but Anderson backs it all up with such fresh insights into the human psyche and the pain and wonder of growing up and being human, that one is left awe-struck and moved by the sheer thrill of it all.
- Moonrise Kingdom is coming to the on June 29.
Think Peter Pan crossed with a healthy helping of Lord of the Flies and a touch of Addams Family Values and you’ll be on the right track. But like all great dishes, the individual ingredients are subsumed by the finished product. Moonrise is sumptuous from first frame to last, each “course” whetting one’s appetite for the next and in this case, dessert does not disappoint.
Anderson also wrote the screenplay with Roman Coppola, and we know from the outset something splendid is afoot. Using as the soundtrack, Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (complete with the Leonard Bernstein narration), Anderson, like Britten in his music, gives us themes, variations and finally a fugue of the principal players in his cast, giving each sufficient “solo” time on screen, then placing them in duets, trios, quartets, etc., until the final tutti ensemble when everyone gets to shine their stuff one final time before the closing credits.
It’s the summer of 1965. We meet our two 12-year old protagonists Suzy (Kara Howard) and Sam (Jared Gilman) after the boy escapes a scout camp and the girl escapes home to rendezvous in a field. Suzy brings records and books, Sam brings a Swiss army knife and binoculars. These are precocious, verbal, troubled kids who just happen to be in love and are determined to live their life together.
As narrated by the wonderful Bob Balaban, we see in flashback how the two met a year earlier while rehearsing for a performance of Noye’s Fludde (also by Britten). Balaban explains how the entire town would soon be wiped out by a very real flood and from then on, we are helplessly and willingly along for the giddy ride that ensues.
High praise is deserved for the entire cast: Bruce Willis as the town Constable who just happens to be carrying on with Sam’s lawyer mom, Frances McDormand, behind the back of her lawyer husband, a wonderfully sly and brittle Bill Murray; Ed Norton as a hilariously earnest, quasi-cartoonish Scout Master; Tilda Swinton as "social services" and all the kids, dogs—everyone.
I won’t be a spoiler for this one. It is from start to finish masterful stuff. You will likely be reeling from the sheer inventiveness of it all and be sorry when it comes to an end. Go, run! Unmissable!
Jeff Klayman is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and London. He also wrote the screenplay for the independent film Adios, Ernesto, directed by Mervyn Willis.