Moonrise Kingdom

Now that GI JOE: RETALIATION has become GI JOE: PROCRASTINATION that means the big Bruce Willis movie of the summer to hold us off until EXPENDABLES 2 will have to be Wes Anderson’s MOONRISE KINGDOM. Bruce plays Captain Sharp, head of the Island Police, New Penzance Township, charged with the task of capturing a fugitive – Sam (Jared Gilman), a disturbed young orphan gone AWOL from the Khaki Scouts of North America, Troop 55, to run away with his also disturbed pen pal/girlfriend Suzy (Kara Hayward).

Sharp’s sense of loyalty to the clueless locals and their lifestyle is reminiscent of Chief Brody in JAWS, but his lonely personal life is a little more Sheriff Teasle in FIRST BLOOD. He lives alone in a small trailer, subsisting on meat and beer, hopelessly in love with a woman who could never fully be his (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand from FARGO and HASBRO’S TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON 3D IMAX EXPERIENCE).

This is what they call a two-hander. Sharp is teamed with a younger man from a different agency, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton of THE ITALIAN JOB and THE INCREDIBLE HULK). Together they must track the fugitives, backed by the overzealous scouts of Troop 55, pitting their organization against the kid’s cunning and commendable camping skills. He’s probly not trained to eat things that’d make a billygoat puke, but he does know alot about pullies, tents and fishing. He probly has patches that are so secret he can’t even show them to anybody.

Bob Balaban plays the narrator, who breaks the 4th wall to tell us about the setting, but also shows up briefly in the Colonel Trautman slot – the guy who knows how the escapee’s mind works because he taught him everything he knows. Or at least, everything he needed to know to earn his cartography badge.

As the man in charge Bruce also has to deal with the bureaucrats at Social Services – specifically one bureaucrat only ever referred to as “Social Services,” played by Tilda Swinton (CONSTANTINE), while Ward has to face the scrutiny of a higher ranking scout master, Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel, RESERVOIR DOGS, BAD LIEUTENANT). Like in ARMAGEDDON Bruce finds himself struggling against the very forces of nature. Like in DIE HARD he scales a tall building with something tied around his waist. Like in MERCURY RISING he has to be nice to a little boy.

You know what, this is weird but come to think of it I kind of feel like this movie is really more about the kids than about Bruce. I mean that’s only my opinion, but I stand firmly behind it. You have the right to disagree. Bruce does have a bigger part than in THE EXPENDABLES, and bigger than Bill Murray (playing another sad guy), but he’s not exactly the lead.

I guess I haven’t reviewed any of the Wes Anderson pictures. I like them. So few people making comedies are also good at making pretty pictures. For Anderson the visuals and filmatism are a big part of the humor. I think his movies are funny and charming and they have a nice humanistic way of valuing their obviously flawed characters. I like ROYAL TENENBAUMS starring Gene Hackman (THE FRENCH CONNECTION, UNFORGIVEN) the best because I see it as an “assholes are people too” message movie. Try to appreciate your dad even though he fucked up, it says. Even though he calls a black guy “Coltrane” for some reason. He should be taken to task for being an asshole but then you should try to still talk to him.

Anderson is one of those filmatists that has such a unique and distinctive style of visuals, humor, and even soundtrack that it demands both a devoted following and a hateful backlash. Forgive me if I wrote this somewhere before, but I was waiting in line for one of his movies a few years back and I was looking around at the people and I realized alot of his fans dress kind of like the characters in the movies, with scarfs and outdated jackets and shit. And the only other director I could think of like that was Tim Burton. They sort of created this alternate world and people fell in love with it and wanted to be a part of it and so eventually it gets to the point where the other people hate those people so much that they hold it against the movie. So a negative review of a Tim Burton movie is gonna almost always have some comment about “Hot Topic” or “emo” or other things that push buttons in young people but that didn’t even exist when Burton started what he was doing. And I’m sure people will hold “twee” or “hipster” or whatever against Wes Anderson too. I don’t really get any of that stuff so I’ll stay out of it.

Anyway, if Wes Anderson rubs you the wrong way then you should probly kill yourself before trying to sit through this one, but if you’re into his shit this will instantly be near the top of your list. My sense is that it’s probly his second best non-cartoon after TENENBAUMS. After doing the stop motion animated FANTASTIC MR. FOX I think Mr. Anderson’s been emboldened. He’s gone even more extreme with his style of turning the world into an obsessive-compulsive show-and-tell diorama. It’s kitschy art design overload with careful attention paid to every detail (the raccoon logo on the hilt of Ward’s pocket knife, the various badges and buttons, the Indians painted on the side of the canoe, the covers of Suzy’s stolen library books, the maps, the tents, the collections of equipment, the costumes for the Noah’s Ark musical…) Sometimes there are cartoony physics, and even cuts to animation or miniatures with little attempt to look real. I like it.

There’s always a home-made, childlike vibe to Anderson’s movies, with so much based around the technically crude but meticulous drawings that his brother does. They’re not slick but there’s a Stanley Kubrick or Where’s Waldo type attention to detail. Alot of his characters (Owen Wilson in BOTTLE ROCKET, the kid from RUSHMORE, the kid from this one) tend to overthink everything, overplan, make little charts and diagrams and maps and outlines. This is their weakness and their charm and the general feeling of the movies themselves. The movie’s attitude toward all this cataloging seems to be “I know it’s silly, but I love it.” And it’s contagious.

He’s got more kids than in previous movies, which makes it seem even more like a live action Peanuts than usual, except that there’s a dog named Snoopy and things… well, they don’t turn out well for him. I think this is Anderson’s first non-cartoon that’s not rated-R, and it’s probly okay for most kids, but it’s the old fashioned okay-for-kids where you don’t have to coddle the little fuckers. We sympathize with these two misfits because they’re misunderstood but also because they are a little crazy. Suzy even ends up stabbing a kid. (Because it’s a Wes Anderson movie her weapon of choice is a pair of child-sized left-handed scissors.) Also they strip down to their underwear and the boy feels up the girl. But they’re so clueless it seems innocent. They’re just doing what they think people in love are supposed to do. They don’t get it.

These kids are really funny. So un-self conscious. I feel like an asshole saying this but the girl is way out of the boy’s league. What’s great is that he’s so self assured it never seems to occur to him, and becomes irrelevant. Their love affair begins when he gets bored during a play, wanders into the girl’s dressing room and singles her out to question about her bird costume.

His main quality would be despicable in an adult but is cute in a little kid: he’s constantly trying to share the information he knows about survival, animals, sucking on a pebble to keep from getting parched. Just trying to be helpful. Maybe what’s refreshing about it is that so much comedy now is about awkward people embarrassing themselves. It’s relatable so it works. But here’s an awkward kid that doesn’t give a shit about it, refuses to acknowledge it. You could say he’s hurt that so many people don’t like him, but it plays more like he’s pissed because he knows he’s awesome and he demands to know why these people won’t give him credit for it.

It’s a humor that’s so dry and specific it’s hard for me to even put a finger on how to describe it, and when other people try to do it it in movies and commercials it seems like a sad rip-off. He’s the only one that can do it right. Skip this part if you haven’t seen it: the biggest laugh for me is after the death of Snoopy, when Suzy asks “Was he a good dog?” and Sam’s response is, “Who’s to say?” Of course he should just say yes, but he’s thoughtful and intellectually honest enough that he chooses instead to question man’s right to judge a dog. And this doesn’t turn Suzy against him. She seems to respect it. That’s why it’s love.

What other filmatist offers characters like that? Maybe the Coen Brothers, that’s about it. I’m glad Anderson keeps doing his thing, and so far he keeps getting better at it.

I’m not really sure what the title means though.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 2:00 pm and is filed under Bruce, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “Moonrise Kingdom”

  1. Liking _Wes Anderson’s movies is easy, Vern. How about Todd Solondz’s, hem? Now that’s the pickle, that’s the challenge. Better yet, Larry fucking Clark.

  2. asimovlives – or how about Albert Pyun?

    Like Vern, I do too like Wes’ movies. Not a fan, but I consider “fan” as in the literal term “fanatic” where I’m obsessive to the point of ridiculousness. I don’t use that term in the casual consumption that most folks do. I’m not a Wes “fan,” but I do enjoy that he makes movies that nobody really has or can. Truely a one of a kind fellow.

    I remember seeing FANTASTIC MR. FOX on opening day and really enjoying it, thinking that this might actually be Wes’ commercial breakthrough, I mean it certianly IMO his most “fun” movie. Instead it tanked hard. That was annoying. Anyway, MOONRISE looks good.

    BTW, Vern did you see PIRANHA 3DD?

  3. I am very much looking forward to Moonrise Kingdom… hopefully it’ll open wide enough to play in Podunk Arkansas.

  4. Moonrise Kingdom is an absolutely wonderful film. Great review, Vern! I think this is some of Bruce Willis and Bill Murray’s best work in a long, long time!!

  5. I’ll admit to being a Wes Anderson fan (although I don’t dress like his characters or anything). I like or love all of his films to different extents. I was pleased that Bruce Willis was a bigger part of this film than I had thought. Sure, the film is focused on the two love birds, but after that the most important characters are probably Bruce and Ed Norton’s.

  6. I liked Anderson a lot until I saw THE DARJEELING LIMITED. I’d already been nhowoticed he pulls out the same bag of tricks for every movie, but it hadn’t really bothered me until DARJEELING, which used the same stylistic tics I once found so enchanting, but in service of something so empty and shallow and pointless and phony and full of shit. Ever since then his movies, even the ones I like, don’t work on me like they used to. There’s nothing wrong with having a bag of tricks (plenty of my favorite directors do) but when you’re attempting to illicit childlike whimsy in me, you can really only go to the well so many times before I stop believing in the puppets and all I can see is the man pulling the strings. (There are way too many metaphors in that sentence, which is itself a metaphor for, I don’t know, Anderson’s overpopulated screenplays or something, probably.)

    Granted I have not seen the movie of his where there are literally puppets so maybe that one’s a game changer, I don’t know.

  7. Don’t know if I can handle this one. RUSHMORE is still pretty great, but I can’t handle other Wes Anderson, due to the well running dry on the bag of puppet whimsy string tricks that Mr. Majestyk just metaphorized and due to close-ups on people’s ugly faces.

    Same thing irks me in Baz Luhrmann joints and most Jean Pierre-Jeunet movies. Unless it’s Audrey Tatou being cute as a goddamned button (Does that clichéd simile make more sense in French or…?), I don’t need the lens close enough to see the pores on anyone’s nose.

    Dude makes deliberate choices, in framing & symmetry & distinctive character quirks and all that stuff I usually appreciate, but I just don’t see his point post-RUSHMORE. It’s all meaningless, empty babbling that annoys me more than it enlightens or entertains.

    Vern’s FIRST BLOOD comparisons, however, ensure that I will eventually see MOONRISE KINGDOM.

  8. I generally like Wes Anderson (and flat-out love Tenenbaums). Warning you, Mouth, this one took a while to warm up to; the opening 10 or 15 goes real heavy on his affectations – foursquare camera placement, just-so costumes and set design, tracking shots that seem to be mostly about exploring how clever his set is. Basically, it was precious. But things really pick up when the lead kids get together. Apart from giving the movie something to center on besides quirk, they feel fresh in a way that the skilled familiar actors can’t be. Suddenly you care about what happens to the people in the movie, and the style decisions stop being an end in themselves and start being interesting decisions on how to present or enhance a story (which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with the museum storybook style, and sometimes has sore patches that come at you like the harmony when you’re expecting the melody.) It won me over bigtime.

    Why do so many people like Rushmore best? Because it was first? Because they recognize or relate to Max? Because of that scene where Olivia Williams wises him up?

  9. Yeah the queue of people in line to see the movie did seem very Wes Anderson-esque. The movie was only playing in a hipster neighborhood. Clearly a very good location; the theater was packed.

    And that’s all I have to say on that subject.

    But on another subject, like the film itself, there is more to say. Like how the first 2/3rds of it seemed really interesting and tightly modulated. You know, spin the dial too far in the wrong direction and you’ve got a ridiculous kind of movie. But everything worked, especially the relationship with the two kids. I just didn’t quite know what to make of the final 20-30 minutes or so, which would be called a “Third Act” if Wes’s films followed any kind of traditional formula. I completely lost interest in the characters because I had no idea what they wanted anymore. It ended up being some kind of extended chase sequence that really bore no similarity to the movie before it.

    So yes while I do like this one from Wes I think in terms of consistency it leaves something to be desired. You can tell Wes really loved making the first 2/3rds, but then something happens. It’s like he just wants to get through it, and finish the movie so you can go home. The best stuff happens in those first two acts.

    Therefore this isn’t his best, but it is his most interesting and least annoying. Especially when you compare it to his seafaring movie. My god…that was like someone made a movie making fun of Wes Anderson, but actually it was Wes Anderson who made it. Jesus.

  10. Count me in as one who prefers Tenenbaums to Rushmore, although I adore both movies. For some odd reason, the more whimsical Tenenbaums seems more real to me in terms of characters and relationships.

  11. I’m really excited to see this. Tenenbaums is easily my favorite and if I’m to be honest with myself, probably one of the best experiences I ever had watching a film in my life. I mean I was like 16 when it came out, impressionable, all that. Very rarely has a movie been that magical for me since then. Perhaps Amelie around the same time, but Tenenbaums held up better on repeated viewings.

    I’m similar to Majestyk in that he lost me incrementally from there on out as he seemed to keep reaching into the same bag of tricks. Darjeeling left me quite cold and Fox was only a marginal improvement.

    I also note that everybody seems to ignore that he made a movie BEFORE Rushmore, and a large contingent of viewers consider it to be his best.

  12. Now I have to wait over two months to read the last paragraph, Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t open until the 30th of August in Australia, the same week as Expendables 2, weirdly enough.

  13. Oh, I took Martin Scorsese’s recommendation on Ebert’s “Best Films of the 1990s” special and I watched BOTTLE ROCKET, renfield. All I can remember is it was boring and Owen Wilson’s character is an incompetent criminal. Some saw freshness in its eschewing of conventions, its dancing to the beat of its own drum or whatever; I saw incompetence & aimlessness.

    It was an anti-cinematic movie, not unlike a shitty Larry Clark or Harmony Korine movie experience but with more sunlit vistas and less actual shit.

    Sorry to be all negative here, but I’m not convinced Mr. Anderson has evolved or tried to improve his schtick at all since 1996 or ’98. He just has access to a bigger wardrobe & cosmetics department and more people on set spending more time on props acquisition & placement.

    I wish his stuff worked for me, so that I could enjoy his auteuristical skills and/or vision and so that I could end my suspicion that half the people with whom I discuss movies are drunk on a naked emperor’s kool-ade.

  14. “All I can remember is it was boring and Owen Wilson’s character is an incompetent criminal.”

    I actually agree Mouth…never made it through the film in fact. Just playing devil’s litigator.

    But yeah I’m definitely drunk on that koolade as far as Tenenbaums goes. I’ve seen the film since and it doesn’t work on me like it did the first time I saw it, but it was just that sort of experience where you’re in tune with every single aspect of every little moment. I think, since then, the only films that come to mind that really handed me my ass the way that film did are Drive and Children of Men. Other than that I can think of isolated moments but not really experiences as a whole. (In Pan’s Labyrinth when she’s telling a story to the baby in the womb, and you zoom in and see the fetus listening contemplatively; that was such a moment, a sort of everything-is-right-in-the-universe WHOOSH).

    Anybody know when Moonrise will achieve a wider release?

  15. I only saw two Wes Anderson movies, they be THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS and RUSHMORE. One of my friends got bored to death with ROYAL and the other hated the lead of RUSHMORE so much he couldn’t stand more then the first 10 minutes of the movie. Me, i enjoyed them. Wes Anderson has a signature of his own, and that’s more then can be said about most filmmakers. A goods thing then. Heard good things about ROCKET BOTTLE, should check it out.

  16. A buddy of mine drily remarked: “I see Wes Anderson’s movie has come out again.”

    Then he stretched it into an article about the merits of artists who repeat themselves: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/05/david_vann_wes_anderson_philip_glass_in_defense_of_artists_who_always_return_to_the_same_themes_.html

    It’s pretty good, give it a read.

  17. “(…) which used the same stylistic tics I once found so enchanting, but in service of something so empty and shallow and pointless and phony and full of shit.”

    Suddently PROMETHEUS came to my mind.

  18. Vern, you drawing parallels of this movie to Rambo is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while

    anyway I’ve never actually seen a Wes Anderson movie, even though they seem like something kinda up my alley, I should probably get on that, or at least see Tenenbaums since my family on my dad’s side is supremely fucked up, so I could probably relate

  19. Darjeeling Limited may in fact be his weakest film, but it has some wonderful moments. I love the scene where all three brothers are trading their prescription meds around the table. I also love when they finally encounter their mom in the nunnery, and she’s pretty much like, “I don’t have any answers for you.” I suppose one of the things I like most about Anderson’s films is that he is simultaneously empathetic towards his characters, but he also has a scene where he calls them on their bullshit. He’s got some real tough love going on in his films.

  20. Best moment in Wes Anderson’s movies: Gweneth Paltrow lesbian scene in THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS.

  21. OK, it’s not a scene but a moment in the mid of a montage, but the point remains.

  22. Renfield, I forgot about Bottle Rocket, and it’s on my shelf! Still, that one opened and closed real quietly, while Rushmore was something of an event and was a lot of people’s first exposure. In Bottle Rocket the humor is uniquely his and the plot is loose like Mouth says. It’s also small-scale, so the WesWorld cutesiness isn’t apparent (like it was in Rushmore … which got the attention.)

    The end of Darjeeling, when the brothers throw away the fetishized suitcases, made me think that Anderson was on the verge of doing the same for his own creative baggage. Guess not, at least visually …

  23. Ug, the suitcases. Has there been a more groan-inducing piece of symbolism in the history of cinema? It’d be like if Ewan McGregor was giving a chimp a piggyback ride for the entirety of TRAINSPOTTING.

  24. RBatty, my vote for his weakest is The Life Aquatic, where I think the scale he got to play with overwhelmed the rest, and too much seemed to be informed by being the captain of a ship/film auteur. And yet … in the theaters, at the climax, the CGI fish and the Sigur Ros cue played big and flashy, while home viewing later had me pretty touched by Zissou’s simple question about the fish.

    Actually, someone who likes both films better might want to compare and contrast with Prometheus …

  25. About the shark, I mean. Duh.

  26. Half of LIFE AQUATIC is my favorite Anderson movie, but the other half is just sloppy as hell. As soon as that SPOILER with Owen Wilson happens, it becomes clear that Anderson had no story to tell. He just kinda makes some stuff happen, then wraps it up with a slow-mo montage of characters staring off into the distance while a great old song plays. It’s the way he ends every movie, but it seems particularly empty in AQUATIC. You’re supposed to be feeling some unspoken closure as the characters ponder what they’ve learned over the course of the story, but if they learned anything, they kept it to themselves. I have no idea what any of them are supposed to be thinking or what I’m supposed to make of the simultaneously fussed-over yet random series of events that have transpired. It’s classic form with no function. The montage makes you FEEL like there’s been some kind of climax, even though there’s nothing of the kind.

    But while the movie as a whole is kind of a scam, I do love a lot of the stuff about it. I love the diorama ship, the goofy special effects, the Casio score, and especially the scenes of Bill Murray running around with a gun. I like the way Anderson shoots action, very glidey and from a distance. Reminded me of the battle scenes from PATHS OF GLORY, which isn’t surprising, perhaps. Anderson and Kubrick are both directors that love a good static tableau, so it makes sense that that’s who Anderson would borrow from when confronted with the challenge of a kind of scene he’d never done before. I would actually watch a Murray-starring action picture in the modern-day Liam Neeson mold directed by Anderson. Might be the best thing for him, actually. Get him out of the sandbox, force him to find out if he can tell a story or not.

  27. Majestyk

    LIFE AQUATIC I lent to a friend who was having a bit of a mid-life crisis (what a friend I am). She came back the next day and told me I had to go buy another copy for myself because I was never getting it back, she related to it so much. I understood and never complained and went and bought myself another copy. As I get older I relate to it, too. The stupid ship I don’t care about. Teh topless intern was nice, though.

  28. Knox Harrington

    June 12th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I really like Wes Anderson’s films (with, you guessed it, Tenenbaums being my favourite). There isn’t a single one that I haven’t enjoyed, and I really hope that he just keeps on doing his thing and perfecting his style, much like Woody Allen does.

    Shit, what is Spike Jonze up to these days? I’ve had this urge to rewatch Where The Wild Things Are lately. That truly is one of the few masterpieces of the new millennium.

  29. I have a huge love for LIFE AQUATIC, but that may be because I interpret it fairly differently than most people would. Love the Selick animation, the amazing cast, the surrealism, the amazing Seu Jorge Bowie covers. Really like RUSHMORE and TENNENBAUMS (mostly for the very funny performances by Schwartzman, Murray, and Hackman)

    But god, DARJEELING LIMITED is just an unbearable experience. It’s everything that is fake and shallow and tedius about Anderson’s films with none of the things that makes them entertaining. Honestly Mr. M, I had the same experience you did, where it actively annoyed me so much that it actually diminished my enjoyment of his previous films and made their flaws much more apparent. I’ve never complained about a recognizable style or filmmakers with fetishes, but Anderson sometimes seems to be nothing BUT those stylistic obsessions. DARJEELING is the worst in this regard, but its hard not to notice it in the others, too.

    That said, I liked MOONRISE KINGDOM pretty well. It helps enormously that the central characters actually ARE kids, and not just emotionally stunted arrested developement adults. The two leads are super amazing, and turn in what are probably the most genuine performances in Anderson’s entire cannon. What doesn’t work for me so well are all the big name stars in small, not especially entertaining roles. They’re all fine actors, but feel like a distraction from the main event.

    you can see my full take by clicking on my name and scrolling down if you’re interested.

    Oh and Vern — not sure if I missed this answer somewhere above, but “moonrise kingdom” is what they name the beach they end up on. They talk about renaming it, and right before the credits they cut to a shot of the beach with its name spelled out on it. I’d have called it STRIKING DISTANCE 2, but what are ya gonna do.

  30. Mr. S: What was your alternate reading of LIFE AQUATIC?

  31. Yeah, Striking Distance 2 would’ve looked cool spelled out in rocks and shells.

    Thanks Mr. S, the part I missed was that they were trying to think up a name for the beach. When it was written out at the end I thought it had come out of the blue. That’s much better now that I know that.

  32. Notice that I also classily avoided making a Port of Call joke despite the obvious temptation.

  33. Mr. M — here’s my take on AQUATIC, cribbed from another post I did awhile back. tl/dr: I interpret the whole thing as a subjective experience entirely from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, Murray’s Zissou character. I think much of the film does not literally happen, but is basically part of the narrative Zissou NEEDS to believe about himself to justify his constant need for affirmation, attention, and unconditional sympathy:

    “I think a large part of my enjoyment of the movie comes from my belief that the story is coming from the head of Murray’s needy, egomaniacal Zissou character. The plot is over-the-top becaue he needs his life to have this kind of ovewrought melodrama — its how he needs to see himself to feel any sense of personal worth. So I don’t consider the story to have happened in a literal sense; its more like Zissou’s way of imagining himself back to relevance (possibly, there are real events going on which are being wildly interpreted by Zissou into what we end up seeing). That’s why the film seems so much more crazy and surreal than Anderson’s other films, I think. Or, maybe they just went too far and I’m giving them too much credit by overanalyzing. One or the other.

    There’s a couple clues (I think) that the story is meant to be subjective. For one, I think it relevant that the film has the awkward “with Steve Zissou” subtitle (like his documentaries in the film do), both highlighting that character and perhaps even suggesting that what we’re watching may be his new film.

    For another, there’s some suggestion in the film that his other documentaries may not have been entirely factual — so much so that no one really even believes his partner has died on the new one. So Zissou is already identified as an unreliable source, and we can see that he has this great need to shape reality into a kind of fictional narrative that suits his sense of self. This becomes even more important if we see the whole film AS one of his documentaries, tailored to the narrative he wants to tell about himself.

    Third, while it is weird that a story from Zissou’s perspective would have sections he’s not a part of, they’re few and far between (in fact, Murray is on-screen nearly the entire movie) and the rare times when he’s not, the characters are still mostly reacting to him. Also as many critics point out, the other characters all have oddly nebulous personalities which never quite let us understand them. I think Zissou is egomaniacal enough to imagine other people are thinking about him as much as he is, and I also think Zissou the filmmaker has a need to find/create narrative, even if his understanding of humans isn’t good enough to really communicate to us exactly what’s happening (for instance, between Cate Blanchett and Owen Wilson) or find actual meaning in it.

    Finally, I think the best argument for interpreting the thing as less than a literal narrative is the animation by Henry Selick, which is surreal enough to suggest that all is not quite what it seems. The fact that he’s a documentary maker who encounters nothing objectively “real” under water speaks a great deal to the way the film considers the way we build unique, separate realities.

    Anyway, there’s no question that they’re in this hyperstylized world which leans precariously towards artifice; the only question is whether it belongs to Anderson or Zissou. Lots of critics picked up on the film’s weird cadence (New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane puts it with his usual eloquence: “You sense that some stretches of action in “The Life Aquatic” are being lightly held within quotation marks”) but dismissed it as part of Anderson’s Indy Hipster milieu. To me, though, there’s an extravagance to the artifice on display here which is absent from his other films, and yet suits Zissou’s character so well one if forced to either conclude Anderson and Co indulged in a rather shamefully transparent and clumsy wish fulfillment for their character, or, perhaps, they’re not the ones directly telling the story.

    In all fairness, if it is Zissou, I can’t tell you exactly what literally is happening. Is it all in his head? Is it his interpretation of real events? Is this his film, a world he really can control? Or is it just the story merely a reflection of Zissou’s character? If there’s information in there that would give a specific answer, I missed it. But I tend to think identifying specifically where the narrative is generated is less important than understanding that its completely dependent on the character of Zissou and his need to cultivate his own comfortable world (in that regard, its very much like one of my favorite films, CONFESSIONS OF DANGEROUS MIND). All Andersons’ films have protagonists whose personal reality splits from a more conventional perspective, but I think with AQUATIC you get an unusual glimpse into what it’s like living in that world, which makes you understand somewhat better what kind of person would create it. You know, like THE CELL. To that end, I find it the most probing and interesting iteration of your typical Andersonian hero — really, the only time Anderson comes close to showing, rather than telling.

    Or maybe I’m completely wrong and it’s just a less successful version of his usual pap and only seems compelling and odd because it’s awkwardly constructed. “

  34. Knox Harrington

    June 12th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Subtlety, that’s roughly the same way I’ve always read it. Even though I never really saw it as literally being his take on the story, I always thought that Anderson adapted his filmmaking style to portray the same kind of bold, exaggerated tale that someone as egotistical as Zissou would tell.

  35. If this was all happening in his head, though, wouldn’t he come off as less of a tool?

  36. Yeah, if it was all in his head, he should have been doing backflips and throwing hatchets into clockwork zombies & dragons while Bjork sang covers in the background. I guess early Bowie would be a good musical choice for a man’s dreamworld, but everything else he dreamt was wack and tragically small in scale.

    Wes Anderson & Zack Snyder should team up for a movie, is what I’m saying. Just keep my beloved Nessa away from Anderson’s retro-twee cosmeticians and their shaky, overly busy hands, scissors, & eye liner pencils.

  37. This is PG? I actually thought the love scene With the kids was incredibly ballsy. I mean, I’m proud of Anderson for going there but I wouldn’t imagine it would clear the MPAA. That was the part of the movie I admired the most, that it didn’t whitewash child romantic exploration by making it all innocent and fake. It wasn’t exploitive but I’d expect it to push people’s buttons, at least outside the Anderson audience. As it should, people need to acknowledge that kids are interested in their bodies. They deserve movies too, and classy ones, not just Larry Clarke.

  38. Mouth, a team up between Wes Anderson and Zack Snyder? That’s a strange proposition. Wes is harldy one of my favorite filmmakers, i can live without seeing his movies, but i do have respect for him. He mannages to have his own style. I can’t say the same about Snyder, evne with all his slow-motion speed change and GCI assisted stuff that became so common in his movies. Also, Wes do seem to have a brain in his head, the same cannot be said about Snyder. Wes also seem to be a man of culture and education, the same cannot be said about Snyder. They would make for a byzarre team up, to say the least.

  39. Mr M — I think the fact that Zissou comes across like a tool doesn’t necessarily argue against him being the author of the story. I don’t think he necessarily has the self-awareness to realize how he’s coming across. His story is meant to justify and reinforce his vision of himself as a put-upon tragic hero, and I think, to his mind, it does. He’s engaged in this kind of mythmaking to validate himself and his actions, so we learn more about him by getting to see the stories he chooses to explain why he is the way he is. He’s so deep in denial about what a jerkoff he is that his perspective on how other people perceive him is warped. From an outside perspective, he looks like a vain, self-centered maniac. But as the guy telling the story, he sees himself as completely vindicated. Which is actually a big part of the reason I believe we’re meant to take the story this way. There seems to be an irreconcilable divide between the way the movie portrays Zissou and the way he seems to us.

    Fred– very much agreed. Thought the scenes with the kids exploring their sexuality may be the one truly brave thing Anderson has ever attempted. I appreciate that the film doesn’t play it all as a joke — its funny because they haven’t quite got a handle on their bodies and the specifics of their desires yet, but they also are acting on genuine impulse, not merely parroting adult behavior. It strikes me as unusually honest, bold, and genuine for an Anderson moment, so someone is almost bound to complain and probably form a class-action lawsuit about it.

  40. Fred, it’s PG-13. I believe all his others are R. Rushmore probly just ’cause they talk about handjobs.

  41. I think they also swear a lot in RUSHMORE as well.

  42. No Wes Anderson movie got a higher rating than “12″ in Germany. Yeah, we don’t care for language.

  43. CJ Holden, i heard that in Germany movies are rated on their violence content rather then either sex or language. Is that true?

  44. I would say so, yeah. Sex and language aren’t really huge problems here. Notorious nuclear F-Bombs on celluloid like CLERKS or THE BIG LEBOWSKI are rated “12″. Sex is a little bit more difficult to guess, but it happens that movies, that fight hard to not get an NC-17 for sexual content in the US, get a 12 or 16 (which isn’t the highest rating here) here. (Like BLUE VALENTINE [12] or LUST/CAUTION [16].)

    But violence…man. We didn’t get an uncut version fo the first two DIE HARDS until their Special Edition DVD releases from around 10 years ago. Meanwhile action movies don’t get cut that often anymore (unless the distributor wants a lower rating. IRON MAN was heavily cut in theatres, but when they submitted the uncut version for the DVD release, they got a 12 anyway, so much ado about nothing, from a greedy distributer), but horror movies are. We still get lots of uncut stuff and if your violent movie is about some historical stuff (BRAVEHEART: 16) or gets critical acclaim (PAN’S LABYRINTH: 16) you might even get a lower rating than you probably should.

    On TV, it gets even more complciated. I rember a day, when I turned on the TV in the morning and came across a scene of THE SWEETEST THING, where Christina Applegate, Cameron Diaz and Selma Blair were singing a song about huge penises. Uncensored ad 9:30 in the morning. A few hours later, on the same channel, they showed TRANSFORMERS and cut almost every action scene, from what I’ve heard. I only saw the beginning. The helicopter turned into a robot, suddenly all soldiers were running away and the giant robot just left, without doing anything, although the whole base around him was burning.
    Oh well…

    It’s all very complicated and unpredictable, except for two things: Language? No problem. Not even on TV. Sex? No BIG problem.

  45. CJ Holden, i should say that an incoherent action scene where it’s hard to understand what’s happening and the editing doesn’t make sense is a common staple on a Michael Bay movie. I think you actually saw the movie as it is.

    Well, if Germany is so censor happy about movies in regard to violence, can you explain me then NEKROMATIK and BRUTALE SHEISSE? What i’m missing here? You have a seperate circuit for ultra-violent movies?

    And did the movie STALINGRAD (one of my very top favorite war movie ever) got much trouble because of the graphic war scenes it showed?

  46. Well, it’s like a safety valve. You let the pressure build up long enough, that fucker is gonna explode when you finally decide to open it. That’s Germany’s relationship with violence. As the blurb I read on the back of a DVD called BURNING MOON put it, “When the Germans make a horror movie, they make a fuckin’ horror movie!”

    Please do not take this analogy as an explanation for those two Word War thingies. That would be irresponsible.

  47. Also “awkward people embarrassing themselves” is every tv comedy since CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Very astute.

  48. Mr. Majestyk, no, i think thsat’s a very good explanation. Repressive social pressure has to vent somewhere. i guess this is way people in the past loved war so much. this is why so many country hymns, which were created in the later 19th century or early 20th century is nothing but call to arms and people dying for their country. People then loved to think their ultimate goal was to die for their country. General Patton, however, said it best: “it’s not a solder’s job to die for his country, but to make the enemy die for theirs”. The dude was unto something.

  49. Fred Topel i shall say since SEINFELD. CURB is it’s spiritual sucessor.

    And then there’s the case of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, which is a comedy about people incapable of feeling embaracement (except Pedro, but he’s mexican).

  50. Asimov: NEKROMANTIK is even a popular case in terms of censorship, because the only thing that saved it from being banned (which btw recently happened to SAW 7!), was that the director could somehow convince the judges, that his movie is art!
    But that’s pretty much the only case that I know. There is this circle of German Low Budget splatter filmmakers (Bethman, Schnaas, Buttgereit) who release a new movie every few years, but they always get dumped straight to DVD and most of the time heavily cut. So the fans (who are less than you might think) just import the uncut DVDs from Austria or Switzerland and that’S the end of the story.

  51. CJ Holden

    “So the fans (who are less than you might think) just import the uncut DVDs from Austria or Switzerland”

    And they say Germans can’t do humour! That’s hysterical!! For a german to get one of his own country splatter movie, he has to get it from Switzerland or Österreich. That’s just wonderful! Delicious!

    There’s no censor body in Portugal, and we have a very good reason for that: it’s a counter-reaction to the right-winger dictatorship regime we had from 1928 until 1974, which fancied itself very moralistic and was heavy into censorship… the hypocrite fuckers!!

    If you ever wonder why i’m so critical of right-wingism or censorship or institunalized stupidity or artificially forced levity, now you know.

  52. CJ, funny story about Buttgereit’s Necromantic; A movie club tried to show it here in Norway in the early 90′s, but they got shut down by the police and the case went to court. The judge, who was a film buff, showed the movie in the courtroom, and the club was subsequently aquitted. BUT, as he wrote in the verdict, even if the club didn’t break any laws the movie was a piece of shit (he didn’t use those words excactly, but you get my drift).

  53. pegsman, cool judge.

  54. Does this compare favorably to Tennenbaums and Rushmore? Wes Anderson lost me at The Life Aquatic which was just boring as hell to me and I could make it all the way through Darjeeling. The previews look more like the former rather then the later. If that’s true I may check this out.

  55. And I meant I couldn’t make it through Darjeeling . I don’t want anyone thinking I had any love for that movie whatsoever.

  56. Chitown — depends on what you’re expecting. Since the characters are kids, they’re somewhat more tolerable than Andersons’ usual adults. It’s got all the Anderson trappings, though, so if it’s just him you can’t stand then I don’t think you’ll go for this one. It’s not really as comedic as RUSHMORE or TENNEBAUMS, but it is as well-made. I liked it and loathed DARJEELING. But then, I like AQUATIC, too.

  57. Chi town, I would say this is a much closer sibling to Rushmore and Tenenbaums than Life Aquatic or Darjeeling. I think Vern said it best that he really has pushed his aesthetic to the extreme–Moonrise is basically a live-action version of Fantastic Mr Fox, at least in terms of tone and composition, though it’s a little more poignant than that film.

  58. I have to be in a certain mood (usually an inebriated state) for Anderson’s quirky hipster humor . RUSHMORE and LIFE AQUATIC are the only ones I could watch more than once and still enjoy. Same with FANTASTIC MR. FOX which was excellent and I think his best work but TENENBAUMS is overrated as fuck and THE DARJEELING LIMITED was in my opinion pretty shitty and a waste of time. So I’m not sure about this one. I can’t see myself going to the cinema for it but I’ll probably catch it on cable sometime.

  59. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    June 15th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I will see this one tomorrow. It’s chancy, because I’m 50/50 on the Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen, but hopefully this’ll turn out to be a good one. I’ll write something on it when I get back.

  60. If Burton made his movies before “emo” was a thing, and Anderson before “hipster”, I can’t see how that excuses them. You can tar something with the same brush if it is a bristle in that selfsame brush.

    Fer example, I love THE CROW, but it is inescapably “goth”. And with the clarity of retrospect, if you think there is something basically wrong with being goth, you should think there is something basically wrong with THE CROW.

    If you go for Anderson movies (RUSHMORE was good!) then you must accept, at some level, hipsterism. Own your feelings.

  61. The Original... Paul

    June 16th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Ok, I was 50/50 going into this one. Not any more.

    This movie is good. Really, really good.

    A word of warning: if you are one of those people who liked “Young Adult” but hated “Juno”, then 1) how the fuck do you even exist? and 2) you will probably hate this movie. Fair warning.

    Y’see, the characters are different, the setting is very different, but the self-conscious styalised look and “feel” of the movie is very much still there. Swap hipster suburbanites for small-town island community – which admittedly is a pretty big swap – and the two movies share many similarities in terms of atmosphere, use of music, self-consciously oddball title screens, etc. Dialogue, not so much, so if this was your issue with “Juno” then don’t be worried about seeing this movie.

    For those of you not put off by this:

    - This movie, to me, is everything I wanted “Young Adult” to be but wasn’t. It’s quirky, unpredictable, full of likeable characters, good-humoured, and very funny at times. Every character in it is given just enough characterisation to be effective in their relative roles. The two kids are fantastic, Bruce, McDormand and Murray are great in relatively minor roles, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel get what are basically extended cameos (but it’s easy to see why they agreed to appear in those specific roles), and there really isn’t a weak link that I could see in the cast.

    In short, if you like the kind of movies I like, you’ll like this one. But stay away if you hated “Juno” for the reasons given above.

    Yep, this is another really good one. Great, in fact.

    Holy fuck, 2012 is turning out to be a magnificent year for cinema.

  62. My favorite Wes Anderson film is Harold and Maude.

    Oh, wait, you mean Anderson didn’t direct Harold and Maude, and instead has made a career of copying that film?

    I can’t be too upset by that as The Brothers Bloom is obviously inspired by Anderson and that movie is really great.

  63. The Original... Paul

    June 16th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Actually thinking about it:

    “If you are one of those people who liked “Young Adult” but hated “Juno”, then 1) how the fuck do you even exist?”

    I apologise for that. Don’t mean to be “personal” about people who have different tastes than me – again, the world wouldn’t be much fun if we all agreed on everything, etc – but that comes off kinda nasty. Wasn’t intended that way.

    Advice still stands though. If you had a problem with “Juno” based on the overall stylistic choices in the movie (as opposed to the dialogue or characters, which are very different), then you should probably give “Moonrise Kingdom” a miss. For everybody else, though, it’s an absolute recommendation from me.

  64. On a scale of 1 to Juggernaut where does it fall, Paul?

  65. The Original... Paul

    June 16th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Casey – oh, definitely pretty close to “Juggernaut”. It’s a great little movie. It’s not for everybody, but I loved it.

    Now the absolute top of the scale would be “Lost in Translation”. “Kingdom” is not there. It’s not close to there. But then in my estimation pretty much nothing else is, so I can’t blame it too much for that.

    Oh, I forgot to mention that this movie is one where the very final shot brought a huge smile out of me. It’s rare that that happens, but it’s a great note to end the movie on.

  66. Yeah, Lost in Translation annoys the fuck out of me.

    I’ll probably just skip this noise.

  67. The Original... Paul

    June 16th, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Can I add that I think Vern’s review absolutely nailed this one. Agree 100% with him. Except I think “Kingdom” is better than “Tenenbaums”. It’s a personal choice but I prefer the characters in “Kingdom”. I just find them more relatable.

  68. The Original... Paul

    June 16th, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Casey – I wouldn’t worry. My friends are basically divided into two categories: those who “get” Lost in Translation, and those who don’t. The divide is just about 50/50. Regarding the group who don’t, I admit, it’s a barrier, but we work through it.

    Anyway liking “Lost in Translation” is not in my opinion a pre-requisite to liking “Moonrise Kingdom”.

  69. The Brothers Bloom was a fun one. Loved the scene of Rachel Weisz juggling chainsaws. It didn’t look real in the least but made for a fantastic image.

  70. The key to this film is a somewhat disturbing 2 second shot. See, early on, the girl gets mad at the boy and goes to sulk in the tent. As she turns to crawl into the tent we get a quick flash of her panties.

    It’s the kind of moment that is innocent and not sexual and happens from time to time. But I’ve *never* seen something like that in a film. There’s no way that shot is an accident. You would trim those frames and lose nothing, and the entire shot is framed to draw the eyeline to the pantie shot.

    The resulting effect is that there is suddenly a real sense of danger to the movie. Like, this movie is going places that might be a bit uncomfortable. And, even if you miss the shot, the subliminal effect remains.

    Sure, we’re told the main boy is trouble and we see the other campers grabbing weapons, but everything seems kitschy and weightless until that moment.

    Also, this is a great date movie.

  71. tawdry,

    great comment regarding the pantie flash. certainly nothing like that is *accidentally* in an obsessed-with-little-visual-details Wes Anderson film.

    I enjoyed the film quite a bit but I agree with a poster who claimed that the third act is a little “let’s get this over with”. Particularly it all comes down to this whole finding-the-orphan-a-good-home thing that probably made Wes feel a bit embarrassed or something.

    Also there’s the scene with Fran and Bill in their separate beds, which was like icing I didn’t need on a fairly undeveloped relationship. Are they supposed to be a foil for the childrens’ relationship? Didn’t see it. If anything I feel like it was shorthand for the sort of dysfunctional relationships Anderson has explored in greater depths in other films.

    To the movie’s credit that was the one moment that struck me as the whole “Wes Anderson’s movie has come out again” thing. For the most part I’d say this is the most new and fresh feeling of all his films. Of course it’s still unmistakably a Wes Anderson film.

    I think the guy’s really good at making you fall for these forbidden romances. The kids’ tent is their little sanctuary same way as Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow’s tent is in Royal T. Love the scene where he zips the tent back up to shield them from Bill Murray’s wrath … that was the moment when I became unqualifiedly invested in the kids’ romance and totally on their side etc.

  72. I need to read through the massive comments section for this film, but I had the chance to watch it the other day and loved it. I like all of Anderson’s films, but this has to be one of my favorites. It reminds me of a Maurice Sendak book where he explores adult themes and ideas in the context of a fantastical children’s story.

  73. RUSHMORE remains my favorite, really because it was the first one that I’d seen. It was easier to relate to the story of an ambitious outsider who pines for someone clearly inappropriate for him than nearly every other teen movie to come out around that time. ELECTION comes close, but it wasn’t nearly as relative to me. TENENBAUMS is definitely 2nd place, for some of the same reasons. And Royal reminds me a bit of my own dad. I think LIFE AQUATIC is hilarious, but I can see how some people were troubled by it, as a follow-up to those two. DARJEELING is as solid, for me, as RUSHMORE and TENENBAUMS. No particular connection to BOTTLE ROCKET or FANTASTIC MR. FOX, but I liked them. Wes can do no wrong in my eyes.

    Which brings me to this. Willis and Norton are the stand-outs. They both have played pretty (and legendary) bad-ass roles before, but it is amazing how well they can play relatively square guys in contrast to that. But I have to admit by the end I was impressed with the kids’ performances too. They hold up equally well with the adults in this. Even the troop, especially when they band together to help Sam and Suzy escape. I liked some of the choices of the music, especially Sharp listening to Hank Williams.

    I’ll need some time on this, but I think if I had to list my favorites, this would come fourth behind RUSHMORE, TENENBAUMS and DARJEELING.

  74. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1Fg5iWmQjwk

    Well, Wes Anderson’s movie is coming soon again. This looks fantastically silly (I think I’ve seen the trailer 5 times in the last two days) and pure Wes.

  75. I really enjoyed GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Wes seems to have fired on all cylinders with this one, and seems to have come up with some new approaches as well as this had a lot more tension than I’d expected. And far darker than anything he’s ever done, but still managed to balance out with the traditional Wes Anderson storytelling style.

  76. Vern I don’t know if you plan on reviewing GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL here or not, but if you do may I suggest also reviewing THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU. For two reasons, one being that it seems to have gained a bit of a critical resurgence after it left everyone lukewarm 10 years ago. 2nd and most importantly, it’s probably the most quirky example of badass cinema I can think of.

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