Our summer of hell (via heat and Kansas politics) has driven me to Liberty Hall, our local movie theater, often to see many refreshing summer movies. Here are my capsule reviews of three:
Moonrise Kingdom:Was there ever a more perfect summer movie? Moonrise Kingdom is very funny, visually delightful (like peeking into an elaborate dollhouse or playing with the best miniature train and village set in the world), outrageously moving, and full of cool water (rain, the ocean, rivers). Sitting in an air-conditioned theater, I started to belief I was on the edge of an edge off Maine just as the storm was blowing in. The actors, especially the kids Kara Hayward as Suzy and Jared Gilman as Sam, astonish, and it doesn’t hurt to have veterans of great comedy and drama in the mix: Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel. I’ve seen it three times and could easily see it a few more times. The Benjamin Britten score is worth the admission price alone.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Yes, this is amazing, and it’s also disturbing in what it shows about a broken, alcoholic, poor and somewhat deranged group of forgotten people who live in “the Bathtub,” a mythical island in the Gulf Coast. If this is the summer of the spectacular child actor, then Moonrise Kingdom’s Gilman and Haywood have fierce competition in the unbelievable acting of Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy. The bleak scenery (also very watery, and not in a good way, when a hurricane decimates the island), terrifying beasts in the magic realism of Hushpuppy’s world, tender bonds between people who are as far from human domestication as you can get without crawling on all fours in a cave, and stirring music add up to a stunning movie. This film reminds Ken and me of the writing of Ben Okri, who uses a spirit child in The Famished Road to narrate the many layers (seen and unseen) of African politics, geography, culture, spirit, past, present and future.
Your Sister’s Sister:Again, we are at the water, this time off the coast of Washington on a sun-dappled island in mid-winter when all the greenery and falling leaves are resonant with color during the damp days. This film is fueled by three actor’s (Rosemary DeWitt, Emily Blunt and Mark Dupluss) superb, realistic, heart-bending and vulnerable presence in a story that is basically a conversation between them over multiple days. It’s the story of an inadvertent human mess, set in motion by a bottle of tequila, ample heartbreak, a desire for a baby, and unspoken love. Yet it’s also the story of family and the kinds of friends who become family, with many associated tangles, so complex and impossible, yet leading to the deepest healing.