At this point in Wes Anderson’s career, his visual style, eccentric characterizations and pop song interludes could be lamentable. And yet, his seventh film entitled “Moonrise Kingdom” excels in all of this, creating a pop color world of infectious young love and cinematic dreaminess. Call it his tweener version of “Pierrot le Fou”… or maybe it’s just my auteur-like appreciation ala Andrew Sarris firmly rooted in place. The plot which is secondary to the lush enjoyment of the world Anderson has created concerns two teenagers, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who escape together on their own personal island and evoke the wrath of the island’s entire adult population in a frantic search. Included in the mix are Bruce Willis as the island’s sheriff and Sam’s parents played by Frances McDormand and the Anderson-ubiquitous Bill Murray, experiencing their own romantic discord. Besides a near-perfect, whimsical tone throughout, “Moonrise Kingdom” is chock full of subtle humor and simple, precise indictments of both laughter and sorrow. Yes, writer-director Anderson is infatuated with awkward and unrequited teenager love (see “Rushmore”) but he maintains the pulse on the dour aspects of love as well, none moreso touching than the short conversation Murray and McDormand share in bed one night, looking up through their ceiling’s skylight. Perfect production design and camera placement aside, “Moonrise Kingdom” is attuned to all the shaggy, imperfect vagaries of love. One of the year’s very best films.
Declaration of War
I really wanted to like Valerie Donzelli’s “Declaration of War” and her attempt to merge a crashing adult drama with the fleeting cinematic concepts of the French New Wave, but her debut film “Declaration of War” is an uneven struggle between the two. Juliette (played by the director herself) meets Romeo (Jeremie Elkhaim) in a bar in the opening scene and their whirlwind romance is told in voiceover, leading up to the birth of their son. Typical parental concern over the repeated infant illness leads to a more damaging prognosis, and from there the film charts their tough struggle over the next eight years. Portions of the film really shine- such as Juliette’s long, violent tracking shot as she runs through the corridors of a hospital trying to outrun her mounting sadness. But it’s exactly this outpouring of emotion that drained my affection for “Declaration of War” in other parts, especially in the exaggerated reaction of friends and family when they hear the young child’s prognosis. Another scene has Juliette and Romeo singing their emotions to each other in song, which is probably the single most precocious and overdone French New New Wave conceit. I do look forward to whatever Donzelli does next. The potential is there. It just felt like with her debut, she felt the need to overreach.
Seeking A Friend For the End of the World
Lorene Scafaria’s “Seeking A Friend For the End of the World” would make for a weird double feature with Lars vonTrier’s “Melancholia”, and its only in the second half that it begins to redeem itself after a shaky opening that lands somewhere between satire and improvised comedy. But when the tone turns contemplative and madly romantic between Keira Knightely and Steve Carell, Scafaria’s debut becomes a small thing of beauty. Episodic in nature as the two hit the road in search of family and lost loves before an asteroid hits and destroys Earth, the film does hit a terrific groove in its quiet moments after dispensing with the trailer-heavy comedic moments. And Knightely is wonderful again, although it wouldn’t take much for me to fall in love with a 28 year old Brit-hipster chick who totes around Walker Brothers and John Cale vinyl and who scribbles David Bowie sayings on her wall. Like my mis-givings about Valeria Donzelli’s tragic-dramady above, “Seeking A Friend For the End of the World” does overcome its uneven tone and settles into a hugely impressive, low-fi telling about romance in the face of catastrophic destruction. I doubt there will be a better moment in any film this year than the final scene between Knightely and Carell…. And thankfully Scafaria sticks to her intelligence and doesn’t compromise her vision.