Movie Review – Moonrise Kingdom
July 11, 2012 5 Comments
Wes Anderson has made the most Wes Andersony movie ever. That is not a bad thing mind you, so don’t let that opening be misleading. If you love Wes Anderson films, you will love his latest offering, Moonrise Kingdom. If you are unfamiliar with Wes Anderson and his idiosyncratic filmmaking, here is a bullet list of the stuff you will see in his movies….all of them:
- Kids acting like adults
- Adults acting like kids
- Strained family dynamics
- Esoteric musical choices
- Scenes that are dead center framed
- So much whimsy
- Magical setting that seem created in a different world
- Bold type font
- More whimsy
- Bill Murray being fucking awesome
This bullet list is pretty much the expectations you will have when you go into a Wes Anderson film, but all these elements used in someone else’s movie, doesn’t seem right. All these things are uniquely refreshing and cohesive when given to Anderson, but it sometimes strays into the familiar territory that leads me to the impasse of Moonrise Kingdom.
Anderson brings together an impressive cast of regular faces and unknown ones to his most complete film since The Royal Tenenbaums. Teeming with talent such as Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand and Jason Schwartzman, Moonrise actually has all of them playing second fiddle (or sitar in Anderson’s case) to two unknown, young actors who are the centerpiece of this whimsical, underage love story. Jared Gilman plays Sam, a Khaki Scout and an orphan who runs away with a young girl named Suzy, played by Kara Hayward, through the perfect little Wes Anderson island called New Penzance. The two young leads make a pact to meetup and runaway, leaving the shackled and unfulfilled lives they have, hoping to blossom young love and whimsical adventures. Suzy’s parents (Murray and McDormand), the island cop (Willis) and the head scout leader (Norton) and his band of eccentric scouts all band together to track down the two kids and restore order to the island and lives.
This movie really reminds me of the scene from Tenenbaums in which Richie and Margot runaway and stay at the museum overnight because they wanted to get away. This is how familiar this movie feels. The players in the film seem the same, the story follow the right beats from his previous films and everything matches that checklist from above. But dammit, it all works so well together that is draws you with this wide eyed wonder and whimsy that you enjoy it. I can’t fault Anderson at all for doing what he does best. His character are precocious and not grounded in the world we live in, meaning they have the ability to fit his ideal and be dynamic and engaging, even if they are familiar from films past.
Moonrise seems so much more mature in writing and growth, even when the story plays upon this idyllic setting of familiarity. The little touches that he brings livens up every scene from his trademark over-the-head placement shots, to the deadpan emotional delivery of dialogue, and eye for composition makes his films so loveable. It’s hard to hate a director that knows how to fill a frame with even the smallest of details and striking composition setups. Everything about it is honed from his previous films to give us the cleanest, dense films of his career.
With all his little touches and idiosyncrasies, Anderson never loses sight of the narrative and themes of the film. This unchained, young love of kids breaking free from the restraints of life and forging their own path in the world is a theme that runs throughout Moonrise. The act of having kids being the adults in the film, is a mirror in which the adult actors see the innocence that they once had and yearn for in the end. But the child actors also fuel the innocence vs. maturity aspect of the film as we see Sam and Suzy share special moments, longing glances, french music swaying and adolescent sexuality exploration.
For all the Wes Anderson touches, a little goes a long ways. Reveling in being eccentric and playing with scenery and whimsy often leads to non-sensical scenes that take away from the film and story. Sam being struck by lighting, the senseless killing of a dog in a fight, and the militaristic grouping of the scout search party does seem a bit more out of place in this film. Style does tend to overtake substance in Anderson films, but he does have a way of pulling it back together in the end.
I can’t get over how much I enjoyed this movie, for all the familiar beats, it’s still a Wes Anderson film and that is something you can appreciate. It’s a double edged sword in that you don’t see him develop and grow as a director. He is still firmly grounded in this world of wonderful hipsterisms and precociousness that it seeps into his themes and characters. It becomes too familiar and doesn’t represent growth, but rather the refinement of his previous skills showcased in his earlier movies. Still, the ensemble cast does an amazing job at supporting the young actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who bring a maturity that is needed in all the madness of the film. The honest, young love and sense of adventure is conveyed beautifully and touching from the two actors, elevating this higher in the Wes Anderson filmography.
One day, we will get something from Anderson that will stray away from his familiar wheelhouse, but until then, Moonrise Kingdom is a well developed film, packed with that charm and undeniable kitsch that makes us love Wes Anderson.
Rating: 4 Tree Chopping Bill Murray’s out of 5
*images via RottenTomatoes