Cosmopolis and Moonrise Kingdom: Two of My Favorites of 2012
Every year, a select couple of films emerge that seem to reflect the state of our country. In 2007, No Country For Old Men discussed a changing of the guard– troubled times lay ahead, and the old way of dealing with dangerous global issues seemed defunct. In 2009, Up In The Air attempted to humanize our troubles and seek comfort in an economy in a downward spiral. In 2010, The Social Network focused on our dwindling humanity, our desire to connect with the outside world in conjunction with our disability to let go of our greed and aspirations of fame. Here, in 2012, we have Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s icy, stylish, and unflinchingly brilliant adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel. We see on full display our economic hubris, embodied by Robert Pattinson in the role of a lifetime. This abstract portrait of America– painted in the opening credits with Pollockesque paint splatters– boasts a sharp, witty, and stylized script, with DeLillo’s dialogue bursting to life through Mamet-like line delivery from the entire cast. It’s so rare to see a cast so perfectly in tune with one another, especially when the film is almost exclusively a series of duo scenes shared with Pattinson. Some dismiss the film as cold, yet there’s genuine fear in these people’s eyes behind the facade, and there’s soul in the words that couldn’t be accomplished without the unorthodox line delivery. Our lead characters wants to control but he also wants to feel: the balance between the perfection of machine and the emotion of man. He wants to be able to predict the turns of the hands of fate, with the market, the country, etc… but there’s no predicting existence. It’s far too fragile, full of mutations. “You didn’t factor in the lopsided,” Paul Giamatti tells Pattinson in an astounding, tense finale. Too many variables exist in our world for us to live under the false pretense of full control. Why would we think our economy would never slip, or once it did that it would naturally come back, restoring balance as if there’s some divine design? Cosmopolis is a dark, hilarious, yet intensely sobering reminder of the nature of things, and as a film lover, it creates a marriage between DeLillo, Cronenberg, and Pattinson that I would love to see continue.
Moonrise Kingdom, a fairy tale about two misfit children finding each other and the adults around them who act like the biggest children of them all, is the film Wes Anderson has been working towards since The Royal Tenenbaums. He started in that film playing with scenes of great melancholy and tragedy, implementing them even more in The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited. His films got increasingly strained for me, as I found it difficult to reconcile the jarring tonal shifts between his storybook whimsy and these sudden bursts of horror. In Moonrise Kingdom, the melancholy, tragedy, and whimsy are effortlessly sewn together, creating easily his best film since Rushmore. We track his two seemingly star-crossed lovers, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) on an island days before a colossal storm. He escapes from his Khaki Scout troop after meeting her by chance before and keeping correspondence via written letter. She runs away from home, and they intend to live in the wilderness together on a beach forever. Her parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), his Scoutmaster (Edward Norton), and the local police captain (Bruce Willis) attempt to track them down with the help of the rest of the Khaki Scouts. The film is framed like a children’s book, with most action directly in the center of the shot, with camera movement moving perfectly horizontally and vertically, as if life is a series of tableaus meticulously crafted for our enjoyment. A number of scenes, including McDormand and Murray discussing their future and Gilman and Hayward’s first quasi-sexual encounter, are wittily constructed and achingly real, and certain actors such as Murray and Jason Schwartzman simply sound like they were born to deliver Anderson dialogue. It’s tough to find child actors who don’t seem overly precocious, but Gilman and Hayward fit like a glove within Anderson’s aesthetic and trademark line delivery. Their romance is the touching heartbeat of the film, reminding us all of our childhood crushes, or perhaps those fleeting moments we have but never have the bravery to follow through with. Outside of one or two moments that might get too whimsical for whimsy’s sake (a cartoonish lightning strike in particular), Anderson has created the perfect manifestation of his style, a hilarious and sad love story, the type of tale created in a fantasy land but still pumping with the heartbeat of characters burdened by real life.