The Set of 400: #124 – My Favorite Can of Nickels

Today! Because one of these days, somebody’s gonna get pushed too far. And who knows what they’re capable of?

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x3)

Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis (x4), Edward Norton (x2), Frances McDormand (x3), Bill Murray (x7), Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman (x4), Harvey Keitel (x3), Lucas Hedges, Charlie Kilgore

As how none of Wes Anderson’s movies feel like they’re coming at us from the modern day, so gloriously does Moonrise Kingdom transport me back to the ’80s, even though the movie is set in the ’60s and was released in 2012. And while all the standard Anderson touches are there – the excruciating attention to detail, the almost unbearable preciousness of every prop and costume, the left field dialogue that somehow fits together comically and neatly – Moonrise finally put it all in a setting that worked perfectly. He gave the leads to children.

The greatest film couple in history?

Now, yes, Rushmore did much the same thing, and Jared Gilman’s wonderfully bizarre Sam Shakusky is really just a slightly further along the spectrum version of Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer, but honestly, did Max Fischer ever feel like a kid? Some of the other children in that movie do – Dirk, for example – but most don’t, like Magnus and Margaret Yang. Here, the kids really are kids, even if they spout the somewhat acrobatic language of a Wes Anderson movie. But the scenes between Sam and Suzy can have this play-acting-as-adults quality while still being squarely locked in childhood. Max Fischer is mostly trying to seduce his teacher, and always feels wise (or at least, posturing) beyond his years.

But even beyond them, the others kids are equally amazing. From the Bishop children to the Khaki Scout members, they make the weirder turns of phrase and the crazy goings on work better than in most of the director’s films – films that I’m solidly on record saying how much I love, so it’s not like it’s a deterrent for me elsewhere. In a movie filled with standout sequences, one of the best has to be when the scout troop comes to the tree house realization of how shitty they’ve treated Sam – “Damn us!” – and how they plan to help going forward. It’s such an unexpected shift in a story with defined kid antagonists – and maybe that in itself is a touch unrealistic, as, you know, kids are awful to each other – that it sticks out in the overall dazzling strangeness of the film.

“That’s not a safe altitude. Why is it up so high? If someone falls from there, that’s a guaranteed death.”

I feel like I mentioned this in some recent-ish post, but I don’t know why a child actors-led movie is so exclusively a 1980s property in my mind. They certainly don’t seem to make these films as much as they did when I was a kid, but again, maybe it’s just that they are aimed more and more at children now and so I’m not noticing them as much. Only things like this – clearly not made for children, but still probably okay for them – hit my radar, and then I lament that we don’t have more films like Goonies and Explorers nowadays. But hell, maybe we do!

But I don’t want to shortchange the adult cast either, which is a nice combination of Anderson regulars and well-placed newcomers, including movie MVP Tilda Swinton as the imperious Social Services.

Moonrise was nominated for Best Screenplay for Anderson and Roman Coppola at the Oscars, and was up for a Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Golden Globe too, but was largely relegated to critics group wins for the likes of production design and score and whatnot. Shame! But part of the issue certainly is that this movie came along in 2012, which was just jammed full of great films. Many more to come!

This is Anderson’s third film on the list, following #267 The Life Aquatic and #319 The Darjeeling Limited, while frequent collaborator Bill Murray leads the way on the acting side, becoming the fourth Seven-Timer thus far (#287 Stripes, #328 The Man Who Knew Too Little, The Life Aquatic, Darjeeling Limited, #227 Scrooged, #269 Kingpin), joining John Candy, Michael Keaton, and Robert Downey Jr. Bruce Willis (#223 Die Hard, #219 The Player, #256 Fifth Element) and Jason Schwartzman (#372 Walk Hard, #212 Funny People, Darjeeling Limited) are next up, advancing to the Fours. Spotlight!

Coming Monday! Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should –

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