May 25, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Museum of the Moving Image

Mike: Erica had a gym class so I had to go to this one by myself. Erica doesn't like Wes Anderson's films anyway, so it was probably for the better. It was another free preview screening we were invited to courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image, which we are members of.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Wes Anderson, but I'll get into that later. Let me first get the moviegoing experience out of the way, because it was a doozy.

I love the screening room at the Museum of the Moving Image. I don't love the hour it takes me to get there, but that's a different story. I got there about a half hour early and picked a nice seat where I had some extra legroom. The seats next to me were reserved - either for special guests or major sponsors or partners, or who-knows... A few minutes before the movie began, a guy and his lady friend sat in the seats next to me. I don't know who the guy was, but he had some involvement in the film. At first I thought he was one of the actors, but I didn't see him on-screen.

I have had many crazy experiences at the movies, but this was a new one for me. As soon as Moonrise Kingdom began, the guy next to me started whispering a running commentary to his lady friend. He was talking about how the set was laid out, talked about the people appearing on the screen. And it was persistent. The girl asked questions, too. It was incredibly annoying, not to mention really pompous. I wanted to say something, but didn't, for a few reasons: A) I'm not the confrontational type. I'll do anything to avoid confrontation. B) I held out hope that he would quiet down after a while. C) I tried to look inward, not to let something so petty upset me. I wanted to try to ignore it and allow myself to accept the situation and not stew over it, as I so often do. And D) as douchy as the guy was, it seemed like it was a big deal to him. I think it was the first time he saw the movie and he didn't get to go to Cannes with the main cast & crew a few days before. And he was trying really hard to impress his lady friend. So even though he was being a moron, I didn't want to ruin it for him. Nobody else in the vicinity said anything, either. Thankfully, after about 20 minutes, the commentary was turned off. He still laughed at everything - you see, everything's an in-joke for him. That was still annoying, but at least he wasn't talking anymore for most of the film.

So yeah, that happened.

As for the movie... it started off with a 1-minute introduction from Wes Anderson, which he recorded just for this screening. Now, Anderson must have been in France, or he was taping the bit with someone who speaks French, because he had a slight French accent while doing the intro. You ever notice how some people talk with a slight accent whenever they're speaking with other people who have an accent? They take on the accent - usually unbeknownst to them. Anyway, Anderson was speaking with an accent. It was cool to have a little intro, but Anderson didn't really say anything of interest. It was disposable. This week the Moving Image is showing all of Anderson's films, each with a new little introduction. Hopefully he'll have something more interesting to say for the other films, because this was just an intro for the sake of having an intro.

Again, I digress. My love/hate deal with Wes Anderson is this: I love Rushmore. I love Royal Tenenbaums. I didn't like Life Aquatic when I first saw it, but I re-watched it a few times for some reason and kept liking it more and more after each subsequent viewing that I got to the point of loving that, too. But with Life Aquatic, I started wishing Anderson would develop a bit more. Try something new. Head in a different direction. I liked Darjeeling Limited, his next film, but it really bugged me that we were getting more of the same. Anderson seems so bogged down in maintaining his own distinct look, style, tone and general flavor that everything we see from him seems like a re-tread. Other filmmakers have their own distinct qualities, too, but those traits seem more organically acquired. His next, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was stop-motion animated, but it had the exact same problem. That one I didn't care for, whereas all of the previous ones I actually dug, even Bottle Rocket going back to the beginning of his career.

With Moonrise Kingdom, I couldn't help but be disappointed in the fact that it was exactly as I expected. Anderson's quaint and twee shtick is getting seriously stale. We get it. We've seen it. Can't we move on? Whenever I saw one of Anderson's artifacts in Moonrise Kingdom - the props and set dressings that have helped shape his trademark style - say, for example, a Francoise Hardy EP, or fake children's books... I laughed inwardly or giggled or smiled or felt charmed. I was amused. But I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable each time. They're guilty pleasures. I laughed in the way that I might laugh during an Adam Sandler movie. There's something funny, but at the same time I'm aware that it really isn't funny. Not much unlike an episode of Family Guy, all Anderson is doing is presenting us with random nostalgic images and ideas which stir up a favorable emotions that bring us back to our childhoods, or whatever it is that inherited nostalgia does to us. It's pretty manipulative when you think about it, and I think that's what injects my enjoyment and appreciation of Moonrise Kingdom with a sense of reluctance.

At the same time, the fact remains that I did laugh. I did enjoy. I was amused and charmed. And even though I was disappointed that this is more-of-the-same Wes Anderson and it's really tired now, it's an amusing film with funny situations. And it's an interesting take on childhood love, capturing those innocent feelings spot-on. The supporting cast consists mostly of extended cameos. Don't be fooled by the poster and trailers, which give the impression of an ensemble cast film - the movie is about the two kids and you see relatively little of Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, etc. Most of them aren't given much to do, but they're nonetheless interesting.

So, in the same way that I appreciated the movie, I must recommend the movie: with a sense of guilt and reluctance.

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