Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my first movie of the Cannes Film Festival. I know, right? Who lost their fool mind and sent me to Cannes? (Hint: it was Harry)
Funnily enough, I’m not here for the entirety of the festival and I’m actually missing the first three days to interview obligations… in fact, I left Austin as Moonrise Kingdom was screening for local press. So, while it’s fitting that my first movie at Cannes was the opener of the festival, Wes Anderson’s typically quirky ode to young, weird romance, it wasn’t exactly my first real Cannes screening. Sure, I saw it on the Croisette, but in a little theater on Rue d’Antibes that was showing such classic European fare as “American Pie 4” (that’s how it as on the billboard). It was a comfy theater, but maybe seated 120 people with all of 10 critics taking up the space. A far cry from the multi-thousand seaters I’m about to experience.
Frustrating internet issues aside, I see the allure of the festival already. The smell of cinema is in the air here. The people are abuzz, locals and tourists alike taking pictures of everything from a giant Marilyn Monroe poster to seemingly random red carpets. Plus it’s in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Mediterranean Sea crystal blue, the breeze light and lovely and sun bright and sunny.
I wonder if there’s a reason festivals like Cannes, Sundance, Sitges and Telluride take place in such beautiful areas when the attendees are going to be spending most of their time sitting in a dark room anyway.
But lets get to Moonrise Kingdom, shall we?
First off, there’s a lot more Fantastic Mr. Fox in this movie than I was expecting. Visually, tonally and even in the camerawork there was a semi-animated quality to this film that was embraced fully by Anderson. It’s a striking, but pleasant twist on his usual live-action feel.
As you’d expect, the film is filled with borderline insane characters, from the obsessive chain-smoking aw-shucks Khaki Scout leader (Edward Norton) to the quasi-narrator that interrupts the story from time to time to do a to-the-camera countdown to the epic storm that’s about to hit the island (Bob Balaban) to the central star-crossed lovers… a lonely girl who also happens to be a violent sociopath and a young “emotionally disturbed” Khaki Scout prodigy/orphan/outcast.
While this really is a movie about a romance between these two kids we actually don’t even get to meet Sam (Jared Gilman) until about a reel into the movie. He has escaped his tent (Shawshank Redemption style), leaving a note of resignation from the Khaki Scouts for the distraught and hurt Norton.
The other side of this romance, Suzy (Kara Hayward), however opens the movie, showing a glimpse of her family life, surrounded by her younger brothers and her sleepwalking-through-life lawyer parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray).
Hayward is a particularly interesting find for Anderson. She’s like a cross between Hermione Granger and Glenn Close in Basic Instinct. There’s something unsettling about her crazed wide-eyed stare, but also something very vulnerable and sad about her, too.
Gilman’s Sam is likewise kind of off. He’s not violent like she is, but he’s about as socially awkward as he can be. There’s a romantic notion that since there are no perfect people everybody is on the look out for a partner that compliments their own flaws; a partner who is strong where they are weak and vice versa. The idea is that some people fit together emotionally and spiritually like two puzzle pieces. These kids are two particularly perfect puzzle pieces.
I’m a sucker for a good coming of age movie, so of course that aspect of the film worked well for me. Every bit of awkward intimacy, every attempted moment of chivalry or emotionally vulnerable scene clicked.
The supporting cast is just as strong. Edward Norton is great as the kid-in-a-grown-up’s-body troop leader. He’s naïve, innocently kind, but takes his Khaki Scouts super seriously, so can be a random hardass sometimes.
Also great is Bruce Willis who plays the town cop. Willis reminds us here that when his heart is into a role and he’s willing to show some vulnerability he’s one of the best screen presences we have. He plays Captain Sharp very low key, but some of that great comic-timing we all loved in Moonlighting pops up when needed.
There’s a scene between Willis and Murray as they drive around the island looking for the runaway pre-teens that is small and with any other actors would have just been a filler moment between these two men. But with two personalities as big as Bruce Willis and Bill Murray I found myself enthralled and wishing there was a buddy movie starring these two characters, both lonely men who love the same woman and sense this about each other.
Like most Wes Anderson movies you have to buckle in from the beginning and be willing to let Anderson lead through his very specific universe. I’ll understand if some people aren’t willing to be led through the world of Moonrise Kingdom. Anderson isn’t afraid to go so stylistic that some of the audience will tune out and that’s why I like his movies so much. You can say what you will, but he never compromises his vision. He doesn’t churn out homogenized versions of his particular brand (ahem, Tim Burton). You can feel the passion behind every one of his films.
That’s especially true here as his sensibilities have evolved a little bit and his recent work in animation shows up in the style of the film.
The flick isn’t as dense as The Life Aquatic, not as hilarious as The Royal Tenenbaums and maybe not as widely appealing as Rushmore, but it’s a film that feels very comfortable on the shelf alongside his other work. If you like Wes Anderson movies it’s no surprise that this one will be for you. Moonrise Kingdom is refreshingly light and airy, an easy to watch melody of a movie.
So, my Cannes got off to a good start. The real adventure begins tomorrow! Stay tuned!