CANNES, France — It was close to 1 a.m Thursday morning when Bill Murray began pulling randoms into the dancing circle. Just a few hours before, Murray’s “Moonrise Kingdom” — his latest collaboration with American oddball auteur Wes Anderson — had opened the Cannes Film Festival, and the actor, looking blond and sweaty, wanted to let loose at the afterparty.
Joining arms with several co-stars — including Tilda Swinton and Jared Gilman, the bespectacled pubescent star of the summer-camp movie — Murray led a group of both the willing and the surprised in a rousing round of Greek-style dancing. Save for a Sean Penn moment when he appeared to push a young French woman who had tried to take a photo of Gilman (“Very violent,” the partygoer said, looking annoyed as she walked away), the often-taciturn Murray seemed genuinely happy.
Whether there will be as much joy around the eccentric comedy when Focus Features releases it May 25 remains to be seen.
Anderson struggled with both longtime fans and at the box office with his last two films, the India-set family dramedy “The Darjeeling Limited” and the animated, George Clooney-voiced “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
“Kingdom” takes him in another new direction — the 1960s-set tale centers on two misfits (Gilman and Kara Hayward) who run away into the New England woods one summer, causing angst in many of the dysfunctional adults around them (Ed Norton, Frances McDormand and Bruce Willis, all speaking perfect Anderson-ese). It’s Anderson’s most child-centric movie yet and, to some, his sweetest.
Despite the new terrain, Anderson throws at the screen many of his trademarks — painterly shots, flat affect, quirk-riddled adults. Their presence is likely to evoke "The Royal Tenenbaums," a comparison Anderson would likely welcome: The 2001 movie grossed more than $50 million and solidified his status as a major American director.
That "Moonrise" not only marked Anderson's Cannes debut but was given the prestigious opening-night slot — where jury chief Nanni Moretti and others were brought out ahead of the screening — gives it an extra bit of gloss.
Word-of-mouth throughout the festival Thursday was positive, though talk of “it’s good” often came with “well, it's at least better than his last few."
As the party unfolded shortly after the black-tie screening, bartenders doled out drinks dressed in khaki summer-camp uniforms while a carnival game allowed well-dressed revelers to fishhook a rubber-ducky for prizes. It was a lighter celebration than many Cannes opening-night affairs. Anderson can only hope he continues to have something to celebrate.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "Moonrise Kingdom." Credit: Focus Features.