How Much You Should Pay to See: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’
by Ester Bloom and Adam Freelander
Ester: Hello! Ready to talk twee?
Adam: Ready to talk TWEENS.
Ester: They’re so adorable! They got me thinking about chemistry onscreen and which directors do a good job of capturing it. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a single instance where Wes Anderson has done so. But maybe I’m forgetting something?
Adam: Yeah, I don’t know if capturing the sparks and fireworks between lovers is really Wes Anderson’s main product.
Adam: Unless he can meticulously choreograph it.
Ester: And light it. And dress it in precious costumes. He’s like a kid playing with Barbies, except that once he has the Barbies perfectly-dressed and in their perfectly-decorated bedroom, he has no idea what to do with them.
Adam: Hang on, I thought we both liked this movie! We’re talking like people who did not like it.
Ester: We did! Sorry. Let’s back up.
Adam: Yeah, let’s switch gears for a second and say Hooray For This Great Movie.
Ester: Tell us why you liked it! (When you’re done cheering.) The audience also cheered, I should say, at our nearly-sold-out screening on a Monday. And no one was tweeting or talking or anything. Everyone was so engrossed in this adorable love story of these two kids.
Adam: Very adorable. Very love story. But, were you aware before we saw it that, despite the star-studded cast, child actors carry 90% of this movie? I guess I knew it was about kids, but the two leads aren’t exactly top-billed.
Ester: I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen either one before. Though it should be said, Ed Norton has never seemed more like a child actor himself. (In the best possible way! He was so open and vulnerable.)
Adam: Yup. ‘Jiminy Cricket!’
Ester: God I love Ed Norton. He should be in everything. Bruce Willis was solid, too. Were you disappointed we didn’t get to spend more time with the adults?
Adam: Not really! That is kind of my point here: All the grownups in this movie are great, but they all have essentially bit parts. This is a movie about kids; kids are the main characters, and it’s only good because of how good the kids are.
Ester: Very true. It’s like one of the YA novels that Suzy brings with her everywhere.
Adam: Have you seen Truffaut’s Small Change?
Ester: NO. Thanks for making me look like a Philistine in the eyes of the Internets.
Adam: I haven’t seen it either!
Ester: Hahahahaha, okay then.
Adam: It seemed like something you might have seen.
Ester: Go on.
Adam: I dunno. I read something where Wes Anderson said he was influenced by it? Now I am having trouble recalling what I read. NEWS ALERT: Wes Anderson influenced by Truffaut.
Ester: This conversation is awesome. Let it be known we both studied Film in college.
Adam: Yes, two undergrad Film Studies majors.
Let me up the pathetic ante here. I’ve never seen a single Truffaut movie.
Ester: Oh wow.
Adam: 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player, Jules and Jim, Day for Night, Small Change: ALL MOVIES I HAVE NOT SEEN.
Ester: You should definitely see The 400 Blows at the very least. It is super-great. Day for Night is also really funny. Jules & Jim is sad.
Adam: …I think in my head some part of me hoped you’d also have not seen a lot of those movies.
Ester: Nope! 4-nothing. Sorry dude. I have also seen The Last Metro but I remember nothing about it. However I have NOT seen some really vital and obvious American classics like Rocky and Raging Bull.
Adam: I’m trying to think of a common thread between those two movies but I’m at a loss.
Adam: ANYWAY. Let’s talk about the kids’ acting a little more and move on.
Ester: They are so serious. They’ve invested everything in these roles. It’s very intense. In a great way.
Adam: I might characterize it a little differently. The kids are really great, but I wouldn’t call it naturalistic or method-y. I was really conscious almost the whole time that the kids were Acting. But that didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it at all.
Ester: Interesting. I’m not sure how I differ with you exactly — but they were taking their characters so seriously; they felt so believable. Even though of course the whole thing was absolute fantasy.
Adam: We were talking after the movie about how children, like stop-motion dolls, are sort of a perfect medium for Anderson, since he can treat them like figurines.
Ester: That’s very true.
Adam: I just feel like that’s part of being a Wes Anderson fan — that there’s an unnatural, stagey quality to absolutely everything he does, and yet, to me anyway, it still works. Very well.
Ester: See, this is where we disagree a little bit.
Adam: LET’S DO THIS.
Ester: I feel like the stage-y quality holds me at arm’s length so that I appreciate what he’s doing — especially visually — but I don’t get that emotionally involved. And at its worst, it can feel pretentious and airless. Rushmore, my favorite of his films by far, never feels like that.
Adam: So where did this movie fall on that scale for you?
Ester: Okay, if 10 is Rushmore and 1 is pretentious and airless, I’d give Moonrise Kingdom a 7.5? I think? It’s so sweet. It’s definitely the sweetest of his films. Okay, an 8.
Where does this rank for you in terms of Wes Anderson movies and their tendency to be a bit too Wes Anderson-y?
Adam: Well, I still don’t know if I’m 100% on board with the idea of this spectrum from airless/stilted to emotionally effective. Cause I think even the best of his work invokes the dollhouse quality. BUT. I do think this is clearly one of his best.
I think it’s also an adorable (and kind of elegant) solution to the very Wes Anderson problem of how all of his characters are constantly acting like children, or like children’s ideas of what grown-ups are.
Adam: But make it so all the characters actually are children, and it’s perfect!
Ester: Even the adults in this film are children! Suzy’s parents sleep in twin beds. Ed Norton & Bruce Willis’s characters are both overgrown kids. Suzy’s mom rides a bike and it’s very easy to picture Social Services (played perfectly by Tilda Swinton) riding one too.
Maybe this feeds into what I was saying about chemistry — everyone’s so chaste! Even Suzy’s mom and her supposed lover. Then the two main characters have a kind of passion for each other that’s so visible that everyone else is threatened by it, but eventually respects it.
Like this is The Giver and they’re the only ones who can see color.
Adam: Haha. This movie owes a huge debt to The Giver.
Ester: Doesn’t everything?
Adam: No, you’re right though. ROMANCE.
Ester: ROMANCE! I love how he sets the table to make dinner for her while they’re on the run, and even thoughtfully squeezes mustard on her hot dog for her. There are all these wonderful delightful details. The stolen record player, too (extra batteries).
Adam: Those details are another quintessential Wes Anderson thing; they’re done with such affection. Fake books. Fake maps. A fake composer named Benjamin Britten who is actually real, but how was I supposed to know that.
Ester: True! All this artifice to capture the real emotion that these two main characters are feeling — this real connection between the two kids when everyone else is so lonely and unconnected. But then, that’s basically Romeo and Juliet in a nutshell too.
Adam: When we were talking right afterwards, you were a little put off by how much older she looks than he does. Do you still feel that way?
Ester: Kind of, but it also kind of works: At bar/bat mitzvahs, it’s always boys slow-dancing awkwardly with girls that are a little taller, a little better-looking, cause those are the proportions at that age.
Adam: Yeah, that’s the reality of being 12.
Ester: Like I said, if this movie were her fantasy instead of his, Sam would probably be 14 and taller with less of a baby-face; but whatever.
Adam: Right, it would be Twilight.
Ester: Hee! Yes.
Adam: But this movie is a BOY’S fantasy. It is MINE.
Ester: Right! Right. Sorry. So talk more about that! Is this roughly what you wished for when you were 12? Run away from your family with a fierce, good-looking girl who truly understands you? (Even though you, unlike Sam-the-Troubled-Orphan, had a happy family.)
Adam: Yes, absolutely. Part of why this movie is lovable is that it’s the ultimate non-sexual fantasy. Like, dude gets the girl (this is huge, already) and THEN WHAT?
Ester: Hahahhaha yeah! THEN WHAT? Maybe this is why Twilight was so popular — it answers the question by imposing an external limitation (HE’S A VAMPIRE HIS LOVE WILL KILL YOU) instead of the nervous adolescent internal one (OH GOD WHAT IF I DO IT WRONG).
Adam: So what else do we need to talk about?
Ester: How Bill Murray suddenly got so old?
Adam: Yes, he’s old.
Ester: Do you think this movie did a good job of capturing the ’60s, or does it not even matter?
Adam: What is it supposed to be, 1965? I mean, this movie is a total fantasy. BUT, I do often think about how my parents were kids at that time, and that their reality was less Mad Men, more Camp Granada. The experience of being an actual child in the ’60s, as opposed to a Child Of The Sixties, was pretty…normal. Wholesome?
Ester: Camp Granada!! Yes. Totally true. For most people, I think the ’60s passed them by in a blur. Or maybe they caught the tail end of it.
Adam: Right. When people say “the 60s” they typically mean 1966–1972. I always think of the last paragraph of this review when I try to get perspective on how short the ’60s actually were.
Ester: Oh wow.
Adam: So let’s wrap up, yeah?
Adam: So: we liked this movie. It is cute. It is funny. It ranks at least in the top 50% of Wes Anderson movies.
Ester: Higher than that!
Adam: I said AT LEAST!
Ester: HIGHER! This is a ridiculous fight, since I still think you liked it more than I did.
Adam: But for you, this is up there with Rushmore as your #1 and #2, yeah?
Ester: Probably, yes. But I do need to see Tenenbaums again, as we discussed.
Adam: Yeah. my favorites are Rushmore, Tenenbaums, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I would place this among them.
Ester: Ok. How much did we pay to see it? No 3D this time, thank god.
Adam: THANK GOD. With the Fandango charge, $15 each.
Ester: Hmmmm. That’s a lot of dollars. On the other hand, I’m glad I saw it, and in a full rapturous theater. That definitely added to the experience.
Adam: Yeah. I do think buying tickets in advance is a necessity if you want that experience.
Ester: I’d say it’s worth full price, but full price should not be extortionate Manhattan prices, so $10-$12 is acceptable.
Adam: When we saw this movie, it was only playing in four theaters in the universe. But you can wait and see this movie at Cobble Hill for 50 cents!!
Ester: 50 cents?? Two bits?? (People should start saying “two bits” again.)
Adam: Done. I recommend you pay fifty-one bits for this movie.
Adam: Although I don’t know what a bit is and besides I think I did the math wrong. This is a solid $12 movie. Do it.
Ester: Yes! Solid $12 movie. We agree! Imagine how good something will have to be to make us think it’s actually worth $15! Because we are both kind of thrifty despite being film-loving types.
Adam: We’ll get there.
Ester: What do you think the first $15 movie will be this year?
Adam: Maybe Prometheus will be good enough to justify the 3D!
Ester: Ooooooh yes, good call. I’m excited.
Adam: Are we doing that one?
Adam: OK good. Let’s hope Mike doesn’t realize that we didn’t do Snow White and the Huntsman.
CONSENSUS: You should pay $12 to see Moonrise Kingdom.
Previously: How Much You Should Pay to See: The Avengers
Adam Freelander has not seen a ton of Godard either. Follow him @adamplease!