Writing Cultural Difference

Writing Cultural Difference
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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Oscars 2013: Moonrise Kingdom

Suzy's bewildered friends survey Sam on first encounter
Moonrise Kingdom (U.S., 2012) directed by Wes Anderson,
Nominated for One Oscar
Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

I have searched for the right word to describe Wes Anderson’s directorial efforts. I am happy to relate that I have found it: twee! Twee: Something that is sweet, almost to the point of being sickeningly so. 

Rushmore, The Royal Tenebaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited … the only film that I have ever had any unequivocal delight in was his first film, the refreshingly weird Bottle Rocket. I know that I am in the minority in this view of his work as being twee but it seems especially so in this film. However, inexplicably to me, many people I know loved this and many of his other films.

On a fictional New England island called New Penzance (hints of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance?) in 1965, an unhappy, unconventional girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward) runs away with Sam (Jared Gilman), an equally unhappy, orphaned boy whose foster parents have abandoned him. They are pursued by a number of exceptionally odd adults – her vaguely hippie-ish lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand); Sharp, the local police captain (Bruce Willis); Social Services (played by a sour-faced Tilda Swinton); and, the boy’s sympathetic Scout Master (Edward Norton).

The young lovers meet at a concert and begin a feverish correspondence by mail. The quick cuts and crayon scrawled messages truly are fun and whimsical - until you realize that the scribbles resemble the work of young grade school children.

Of course, when they run away, Suzy, clad in a very short, mod-like dress, where we periodically glimpse her underwear, brings a record player, a cat and books. Of course she does. Adorable. Details such as this cloy … come on, she’s twelve and a bit volatile but razor sharp, and she is not four years old. Sam at least has the good sense to bring camp equipment. Their goal is to reach a secluded cove on the island that they name Moonrise Kingdom. Inevitably, Anderson’s seeming talisman in almost all his films, Jason Schwartzman, appears as cousin Ben.

After eluding the adults for most of the film, weathering a hurricane, flash flood and lightening, the pair survive. All ends well for Sam and Suzy. Sam finds a guardian and the pair are permitted to continue as boyfriend and girlfriend. Everything is bathed in a golden glow, very prettily reflecting the cinematic look of that period. I can't say the film is not pretty.

Why does his work annoy me so … the aura of phoniness, the longing for a non-existent, nostalgic childhood that seems so evident in most of his work, the quirkiness of almost all of his characters, the heightened sense of hyper-reality where virtually none of the characters can act in a natural manner.

Or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon and have a hate on for young love … yeah, maybe.

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