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Moonrise-Kingdom-wallpapers-overallsiteWes Anderson specializes in idiosyncratic films rich in detail and populated with dysfunctional people. “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” “The Darjeeling Limited” and even his stop motion animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” are studies in human behavior with liberal doses of humor and melancholy.

Some find his films twee, a bit too clever, but there is real beauty in very one of them and not just in his wonderfully composed shots. What is obvious, particularly in his new film, the coming-of-age “Moonrise Kingdom,” is a love of humanity in all its forms. They maybe eccentric pieces of work, but they’re heartfelt.

The year is 1965, the place is a New England island town called New Penzance. On one side of the island orphan Sam (Jared Gilman) is a twelve-year-old Khaki Scout disliked by the rest of his troupe. He’s unstable, they say. Dangerous. On the other is Suzy (Kara Hayward), an unhappy girl who lives in what looks to be a giant dollhouse with her parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand) and three younger brothers. In love, united in their outsider status, they run away, going on an extended camping trip. Search parties are launched—led by the Sheriff (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) but true love prevails and these soul mates will not be kept apart.

Adjectives like beautiful and lyrical spring to mind when I recall the movie. Anderson is the anti-David Lynch, a uniquely American filmmaker, a dysfunctional Norman Rockwell who peels back the veneer of typical life not to reveal a seedy underbelly as Lynch does, but the best in human nature.

Anderson’s characters don’t always start in a good place, but circumstance usually pushes them to explore the better side of their psyches.

As usual Anderson brings out nice performances from his cast. Murray returns for this eighth collaboration with the director, Willis puts aside his usual “Die Hard” bravado to play a sad, small town cop and Jason Schwartzman steals the show in a cameo as a fast talking camp councilor. The real stars, however, are Gilman and Hayward, who both hand in complex performances as troubled kids.

Also present is Anderson’s usual attention to detail—“Suzy’s “Sunday school shoes”—and unerring eye for composition.

More importantly though, is his sense of character. It’s clear he cares about his characters, and with this film he establishes himself as one of the great humanist directors working today.

The level of eccentric filmmaking in “Moonrise Kingdom” won’t be for everyone, but the film’s warmth and gentle humor earn it a big recommendation.

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