Movie: 'Moonrise Kingdom,' 'The Intouchables' & 'Hysteria'
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
Perhaps because of their dry, whimsical, bittersweet wistfulness, Wes Anderson's eccentric fantasy films ("Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Fantastic Mr. Fox") are a guilty pleasure.
On an idyllic island off New England's Narragansett Bay in September 1965, two alienated, rebellious 12-year-olds fall in love and decide to run away together. Wearing his coonskin cap, orphaned outcast Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is tired of being bullied by Khaki Scout Troop 55 at Camp Ivanhoe, while sullen Suzy Bishop (Kara Howard) persistently peers at the world through binoculars and needs to escape from her family: three younger brothers, morose father (Bill Murray) and harried mother (Frances McDormand), who is having an affair with the local sheriff, Capt. Sharp (Bruce Willis).
As intrepid, idealistic Sam and Suzy hike through the rolling fields and craggy ravines, following a Native American Harvest Migration trail, and set up their sanctuary camp on a deserted beach by a magical cove that they dub Moonrise Kingdom, a violent storm is brewing off-shore. Meanwhile in the tiny community of New Penzance, their alarming absence initiates an exhaustive search by the colorfully caricatured adults who are, supposedly, in charge, like Captain Sharp, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel) and authoritative Social Services (Tilda Swinton).
Subtly scripted by Roman Coppola and director Wes Anderson, it's meticulously stylized. Like Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," which is often referenced, Anderson creates distinctive component parts, then artfully blends them into a fancifully conceived cinematic ensemble, propelled by precocious, if flawed young people, whose resonant, romantic adventure is chronicled by idiosyncratic, visually spectacular tracking shots.
Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Howard exemplify the angry, bewildered innocence of adolescence, while the Narrator (Bob Balaban) clarifies geographical details and historical background. Among the decorative atmospheric details are pup tents custom-made by a historical reenactment company and a 1952 Spartanette trailer.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Moonrise Kingdom" is a tender, melancholy, nostalgic 9, concluding with a dedication to Anderson's girlfriend, writer Juman Malouf.
Foreign film aficionados should enjoy this charming odd-couple comedy, reportedly the second highest-grossing film in French history.
As it begins, a black motorist is careening through Paris in an expensive sports car with a Caucasian passenger as Kool and the Gang booms on the car stereo. When he's stopped by the police, the driver claims he's rushing a quadriplegic who's suffering a seizure to the hospital. After they're sent on their way, the two men convulse into laughter and share a cigarette. Obviously, things are not as they seem.
Several months earlier, after being paralyzed in a paragliding accident, it became apparent that wealthy, worldly, widower Philippe (Francoise Cluzet) needed a caregiver. Just out of prison, troubled, pot-smoking Driss (Omar Sy) applies for the job, not because he wants it but so he can qualify for welfare benefits. Despite the misgivings of his staff, open-minded Philippe hires him. He's attracted to Driss's crass cockiness and unwavering candor and appreciates Driss's lack of pity. While Driss's caregiving skills may be lacking and there's an obvious culture clash, Philippe senses that his friendship is real. In addition, they both share an addiction to the adrenaline rush of risk-taking and an appreciation for women. Regarding the latter, Diss not only intercedes in Philippe's love life but also in that of his spoiled, teenage daughter, Elisa (Alba Gaia Bellugi).
Inspired by true events chronicled in a documentary and memoir, writers/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano changed Driss' name from Abdel and switched his nationality from Algerian to Senegalese, as becomes obvious when the real Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou are glimpsed at the conclusion. While the characters are simplistic and stereotypical, the casting choices are brilliant, making it understandable why charismatic Omar Sy won France's prestigious Cesar as Best Actor over Jean Dujardin ("The Artist"), becoming the first black actor ever to achieve that award.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Intouchables" is a sweet, irresistibly subversive 7 -- and the Weinstein Co. has already acquired the English remake rights.
Have you ever heard of a Victorian-era London doctor named Mortimer Granville? No? Neither had I -- until Tanya Wexler's heavily fictionalized, historical, romantic-comedy/bio-pic identified him as the inventor of the electric vibrator.
Dapper, mutton-chopped Dr. Granville (Hugh Dancy) is a prim but progressive physician, working with social-climbing Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Price), who theorizes that many of the nervous diseases suffered by culturally repressed, refined women in the late 1800s were imagined and could be clinically relieved by discreetly draped pelvic massages that include therapeutically manipulating their genitalia to induce a paroxysm (a.k.a., an orgasm).
Back then, "hysteria" was an all-purpose medical term used to describe many female ailments. As word spreads about their innovative and intensely pleasurable treatments, their medical practice grows. They suffer from inflamed tendons in their arms until they introduce the use of a steampunk stimulator, a revolutionary prototype somewhat accidentally devised by Granville's wealthy, eccentric, socialite friend, Edmund St. John-Smythe (scene-stealing Rupert Everett).
While Granville is properly courting Dalymple's timid, obedient, younger daughter Emily (Felicity Jones), who demurely practices piano, he's far more intrigued by verbal sparring matches with her feisty older sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an enlightened feminist who defiantly works at an East End settlement house for the underprivileged and homeless and never misses an opportunity to speechify.
Opening with the declaration -- "This story is based on true events, really" -- it's drolly scripted by the husband/wife team Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer, and dutifully directed by Tanya Wexler, who delves into primitive medical practices like leeching, bleeding and sea-bathing and the medical establishment's abysmal ignorance about the importance of hospital hygiene. A similarly focused drama, Sara Ruhl's "In the Next Room" or "The Vibrator Play," produced on Broadway in 2009, was wittier, far more stimulating and, therefore, satisfying.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Hysteria" is a strained yet saucy 6, barely skimming the surface of the subject of female sexuality, although the closing credits illustrate the availability of new-and-improved gadgets like the Rabbit and Pocket Rocket.