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Moonrise Kingdom

Year: 2012
Production Co: Indian Paintbrush
Director: Wes Anderson
Producer: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson/Roman Coppola
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Tilda Swinton, Jasonc Schwartzman, Bob Balaban

I heard a comment about this movie along the lines of 'it could have been twee and sentimental', and they're two of the words I kept thinking of throughout the whole thing. Wes Anderson is a modern Robert Altman or Woody Allen – a one man film brand where you know everything he does is going to be so kitsch it's almost ironic, albeit with a lavish brushstroke of genuine love for its trapping and Bill Murray bumbling around in the background like a bull in a China shop, completely out of place.

Like Ed Norton's character as upstanding scout leader Ward, Anderson's films are straight-backed, stiff upper lipped, proud... and dressed in such ridiculous clothes while doing so you wonder if he's taking the piss out of both us and his cast.

Sam and Suzy (Gilman and Hayward) are young teens living on a New England island in the 1960s who know each other through various scout and youth activities. In clipped tones they share in both speech and letters, they decide they're in love and are going to run away together.

In doing so, they throw the dysfunctional adults all around them into a series of tailspins, from police chief Sharp (Willis) to the scout master and Suzy's parents (Murray and McDormand).

It's not very clear whether Anderson considers the precocious teenagers or the adults to be the protagonists of the story. While Sam's been in foster care most of his life (his last parents having asked social services to take him back, almost hinting at a destructive past), Suzy's been taking her crumbling home life with aplomb for years even as the adults around her fall slowly apart.

For their part, the adults are just as screwed up. Suzy' mother and police chief Sharp are engaged in an affair, scoutmaster Ward sports a proto-50s affability that's starting to show cracks and in maybe the most Andersonian scene, Suzy's father comes downstairs in the middle of the night, drunk, carrying an axe, slight gut hanging over his pyjama bottoms, announcing he's going outside to cut down a tree.

The cast was a bit overstuffed and I could never quite distinguish between catalyst and result. Suzy and Sam's flight and the adults chasing them is a Mobius strip of quaint nostalgia, clever-clogs dialogue and distinctive personalities.

The problem – like the most excessive of Altman's films – is that there's just too much going on with too many people doing it. Only a few weeks since seeing it the whole thing is becoming a jumble of a single flavour in my mind – the flavour of pure Wes Anderson.

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