Tuesday, December 10, 2013

the centered worlds of moonrise kingdom and fantastic mr. fox

Sam, "I admit we knew we'd get in trouble. That part's true. We knew people would be worried, and we still ran away, anyway. But something also happened, which we didn't do on purpose. When we first met each other, something happened to us."

Sam and Suzy embark on an adventure

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom tells a tale of young love, circa 1965. Or, a love story that happens to be happening to two young people. Kids, most would call them. 12-year-old Sam (Jared Gilman) and the lovely deadpan Suzy met one summer and it was clearly a meeting of the minds. Or souls. After some serious pen pal-manship the two decide to run away together the following summer. Sam is a Khaki Scout, and comes to the rendezvous equipped with all matter of survival gear. Suzy brings her kitten, favorite books, her portable record player and a suitcase. Suzy's parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), Sam's scout master (Edward Norton) and troop and a laid-back local policeman (Bruce Willis) go on full alert and try to locate the missing pair. But Moonrise Kingdom is not really about whether the kids will be found or not. It's about love and family. Sam is an orphan and envies Suzy's large family, while Suzy detests them and romanticizes Sam's situation.
Sam, "I feel I'm in a real family now. Not like yours, but similar to one."
Suzy, "I always wished I was an orphan. Most of my favorite characters are. I think your lives are more special."
Sam, "I love you, but you don't know what you're talking about."
Suzy, "I love you, too."

The fantastic Mr. Fox

An equally fantastic treehouse from Moonrise Kingdom

Bill Murray has been working consistently with Anderson since Rushmore, and the director has always managed to assemble the best talent. Also on board for Moonrise Kingdom are Bob Balaban as an overly-involved narrator, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, and another Anderson regular contributor, Jason Schwartzman. I've been a fan of Anderson and his highly stylized films, featuring twisted family situations since Rushmore. Moonrise Kingdom is a visual feast as well as sweet and funny. But as I was watching it I couldn't help but be reminded of his previous film, the stop-motion Fantastic Mr. FoxMoonrise Kingdom's opening credit sequence set in the Bishops' (Suzy's parents) house, how the characters are placed in a frame, and how the camera moves, reminds me of Anderson's animated animal characters as well as being very reminiscent of Mr. Fox's home.

Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the Roald Dahl children's book, tells the story of Mr. Fox (George Clooney) his wife (Meryl Streep), and his uneasy relationship with his son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox and his friends steal food each night from some rich and angry farmers, but soon find their lives and homes threatened by the humans, until they turn the tables on the farmers and find a new life — underground. The disaffected Ash and his gripes, especially his resentment of his talented cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson), sounds similar to runaways Sam and Suzy.
Beaver's Son, to Ash, "We don't like you and we hate your dad. Now grab some of that mud, chew it in your mouth, and swallow it."
Ash, "I'm not gonna eat mud!"
Beaver's Son, "Cuss yeah you are." [Shoves mud in Ash's face]
Kristofferson, "Don't do that."
Beaver's Son, "Why'd you take your shoes off?"
Kristofferson, "So I don't break your nose when I kick it." [Karate moves ensue, Beaver's son walks away crying]
Ash, "I can fight my own fights."
Kristofferson, "No, you can't."

The crew from The Life Aquatic, led by Bill Murray

Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore

A tableau semi-vivant from The Royal Tenenbaums

Anderson has always been a fan of ultra-saturated colors and (mostly) centered compositions. Think about the framing of a scene the next time out watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or The Royal Tenenbaums. His highly stylized visuals effortlessly leant themselves to the animation of Fox, but that sensibility, especially coupled with an attention to detail, is just as wonderfully employed in Moonrise Kingdom. The Bishops' house interiors resemble a miniature dollhouse — until someone actually walks into the frame and surprises the viewer. There are many set pieces in Moonrise Kingdom, but one of the funniest, an amazingly tall tree house built by the troop Sam belongs to, the Khaki Scouts, brings the tree that houses Mr. Fox and his friends to mind as well.

At the Bishops' house, with Suzy ...

... and without Suzy
Mr. Fox, "They say all foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum, but it's cool to the paw — try it. They say my tail needs to be dry cleaned twice a month, but now it's fully detachable — see? They say our tree may never grow back, but one day, something will. Yes, these crackles are made of synthetic goose and these giblets come from artificial squab, and even these apples look fake — but at least they've got stars on them. I guess my point is, we'll eat tonight, and we'll eat together. And even in this not particularly flattering light, you are without a doubt the five and a half most wonderful wild animals I've ever met in my life. So let's raise our boxes — to our survival.

Families may be dysfunctional, and our world and our lives, may be less than perfect, but somehow Anderson's characters manage to find ways to enjoy themselves and make the best of things. All while keeping things centered.


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