The movie weekend brings us one of the best films of the summer, and of Wes Anderson's career.
“Moonrise Kingdom” bottles all of Wes Anderson's eccentricities – odd characters, a quirky location, dollhouse set design, and off-kilter dialogue – into a most charming package. Two 12-year-olds (Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman) run away together on an isolated New England island in 1965, sending the boy's scoutmaster (Edward Norton), the girl's parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) and the island's police chief (Bruce Willis) on a wild search. The result is a funny and sweet tale of innocence and idealism in the face of the storms of adolescence.
The big studio movies both touch upon the excesses of the 1980s, with varying degrees of success.
“Rock of Ages” is an adaptation of the hit Broadway jukebox musical, which mashes up power-rock hits (from the likes of Poison, Foreigner, Journey and others) into a simple story of two dreamers (Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta) seeking love and musical fame on L.A.'s Sunset Strip. Director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) brings plenty of energy to the musical numbers, though he can't quite get over Hough's inability to turn her Nashville twang into a Joan Jett growl. The surprise is a scene-stealing turn by Tom Cruise as a zoned-out rock star, and solid support from Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.
Adam Sandler's latest crime against good taste, “That's My Boy,” begins in 1984, as 13-year-old Donny Berger (Justin Weaver) has an affair with his hot teacher (Eva Amurri Martino), leading to scandal, a jail term for the teacher, and a baby boy that Donny must raise on his own. Fast-forward to today, and a 40ish Donny (played by Sandler) is a beer-drinking lout facing prison for tax evasion – and hitting up his estranged son (Andy Samberg), now a neurotic hedge-fund manager, on the eve of his wedding to a rich girl (Leighton Meester). Sandler's brand of sociopathic idiocy, highlighted by the rich wedding guests' being incredulously charmed by Donny's profane manner, is aimed at his fans – and, more tellingly, at satisfying the star's gargantuan ego.
Lastly, from the art-house slate, comes something out of the 1880s. “Hysteria” is a comedy centering on the invention of the vibrator, by a Victorian-era doctor (Hugh Dancy) who finds work as assistant to a respected doctor (Jonathan Pryce) treating wealthy women for “hysteria” – a treatment that involves inducing “hysterical paroxysms” (a k a orgasms). Meanwhile, the young doctor becomes taken with his superior's headstrong daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a social activist. Director Tanya Wexler gets some good mileage out of the prim Victorians encountering the new invention, but the key to the film's pleasures is the chemistry between Dancy and Gyllenhaal.