|Newlyweds Suzy (Hayward) and Sam (Gilman)|
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, and Scott Rudin
Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Jared Gilman, and Kara Hayward
**** (Original rating: ***1/2)
After a brief venture into animation with Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Wes Anderson returns with his first live-action film in five years. As per Anderson's usual traits, quirky and charming characters abound in the film. A young orphan named Sam Shakusky (Gilman) is a khaki scout who quits his troop and flees to the forest to be with the girl he loves, Suzy Bishop (Hayward). Sam doesn't fit in with the other boys, and Suzy is misunderstood by her parents. The teenaged twosome are outcasts that have a shared understanding of one another, each at ease in the other's presence. However, their disappearance brings Suzy's lawyer parents (Murray and McDormand), the laid-back police captain (Willis), and Sam's orderly scout master (Norton) - with the entire troop in tow - together in pursuit. Sam and Suzy's relationship must endure the efforts of the adults and their peers to separate them, before they can finally be together.
Anderson's films can sometimes be too quirky, like The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). While he does not always deliver (for me, anyways), he does so here. His slow-motion shots and unique sense of humor work very well here. (See The Darjeeling Limited (2007).) His and Coppola's script is filled with his off-beat humor and stylish characteristics without being too off-putting. On top of that, the cast is wonderful, with the leading newcomers performing on the level of the supporting veterans. Gilman and Hayward look great together, and they have an awkward, almost unspoken, rapport that fits their characters splendidly. Willis and company are welcome additions, but I would've liked to see more of Swinton. The film is an odd lark with a fittingly distinctive score by Alexandre Desplat. Although Anderson is not for everyone, he has made one of his best films with this comedy. It feels like an undiscovered secret that most of the film community has heard of, but not completely acknowledged. By no means is it a masterpiece. It's just a great little film that you should see.
Oscar Potential: Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score