Last night was the Chicago area premier of Wes Anderson's highly anticipated new flick Moonrise Kingdom. My sweetheart and I motored up 30 minutes north to Evanston where one of the three theaters in the Chicago-land area are showing the film. As ridiculous as it may sound, the Oscar nominated writer/director Wes Anderson - whom made somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000,000 on his career-making movie The Royal Tenenbaums - must have a limited release for his new film that includes an all-star cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and the more-myth-than-man Bill Murray. But all those actors play second fiddle to the leading duo of twelve-year-olds Jared Gilman (Sam Shakusky) and Kara Hayward (Suzy Bishop) and The Life Aquatic - which followed The Royal Tenenbaums - lost nearly $20 million before erasing some of that ground through international screenings and DVD sales. Since then, Wes Anderson's movies have followed a similar trend, the rarely seen lost treasure The Darjeeling Limited barely making $17,000,000 despite not being shown anywhere and the amazing Fantastic Mr. Fox barely eking out $6 million. So maybe the numbers do support the decision to have a limited release, and numbers don't lie, right?
Moonrise Kingdom is the love story of the orphaned and "emotionally unstable" Khaki Scout Sam Shakusky and the brooding and darkly commanding Suzy Bishop. Banished by their peer groups, these two child-lovers resolve to run away together into the New Penzance Island wilderness. A search party is organized by Scout Master Ward (Norton) and Police Capt. Sharp (Willis) for the runaways as a looming storm approaches and trouble mounts. Moonrise Kingdom is funny and awkwardly sweet, sharing in some respects more with Fantastic Mr. Fox than Wes Anderson's other films. Our two main characters are 12 years old and we never really leave their sphere, making the movie a fantasy for not only being a period-piece of the 1960s, but as for bringing us back to the confusing time of adolescence. And, of course, the movie is wonderfully musically curated; mostly by Hank Willimas and Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
All this is to say that while Moonrise Kingdom is particularly Wes Anderson in its eccentricity and commanding presence of mood and style, it is not weird enough to turn off the general movie-viewing public as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did. In many respects, Moonrise Kingdom fits as an archetypal summer film - caught up in the loss of innocence for two young lovers, centered around the adventures of two runaways and a summer camp, both whimsical and funny - so much so, that you might argue the film's marketability to become a blockbuster more than its potential to become a cult-classic. Hell, it has Bruce Willis in it! Everyone loves Bruce Willis, right?
Interestingly enough, as the years have happened, Wes Anderson has added more cachet to his name. Those of us who grew up on and loved Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums have become older and in some cases the taste-makers of our society which has subtely shifted to reflect this, as does every few years. So why not open Moonrise Kingdom to a wider audience? It is a movie that stands out in comparison to everything else in the market for its artfulness and quality. It appeals to a demographic that loves movies, but has stopped paying to see them. The trump card though - and the moguls who run Hollywood and make remake after sequel after sequel might not understand this - it's a good movie. Why must we always consider the American populous too stupid to enjoy a movie without superfluous CG animation and a well conceived plot? I'd say give the movie a chance and let's give the cinema some culture to go along with all the superheroes destroying the planet. The people actually might enjoy it.
See the trailer here!