Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: "Moonrise Kingdom"

Earlier this year the first trailer for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was released ahead of its premiere at Cannes. It is the best trailer released so far this year (even eclipsing Quentin Tarantino's awesome Django Unchained). Wes Anderson is one of my three favourite directors (with Tarantino and Woody Allen) and I await his projects with juvenile glee. Bottle Rocket (1996) and Rushmore (1998) are widely considered to be Wes Anderson-lite, pre-The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), when Anderson's mix of family drama and wry wit were perfected. The Royal Tenenbaums is easily one of my favourite films of all time and he comes eerily close to perfection with Moonrise Kingdom. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) is considered his biggest failure and The Darjeeling Limited (2007) is the most forgotten, but both feature Anderson's trademark style and offbeat humour. It is the perfectly executed style and tone that made the 2009 adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox work so wonderfully. Anderson has also been incredibly lucky casting his projects. From Anjelica Huston and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums to Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett in The Life Aquatic to George Clooney and Meryl Streep in Fantastic Mr Fox, he now features Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton in Moonrise Kingdom. But it is not these Oscar-nominated stars that make it work. It is the unknown teenage leads, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, that light up the screen. Moonrise Kingdom is absolutely Wes Anderson's most stylish and stylistic film. He and his creative team spared no expensive to recreate New England in 1965. The films of Wes Anderson have a certain familiarity and offbeat quality that may alienate some viewers. His work is purposeful and extremely well focused and plotted. Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson's first feature length film in five years, is so beautifully photographed and styled that it is easy to forgive the fact that the story itself is not as evolved as The Royal Tenenbaums.

It is summertime in New England. Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is a twelve year old boy attending a boy scout summer camp on New Penzance Island. Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) is spending the summer with her three younger brothers and her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Sam and Suzy met the previous summer when Sam's boy scout group watched a church performance of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde. Sam was immediately drawn to Suzy and the two begin a pen pal relationship. Through their epistolary courtship, Sam and Suzy run away together. Sam's troop leader, Scout Master Randy (Edward Norton), has never lost a boy before and he sends all the other boys to find him. Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), seemingly the only police officer on the island, is also called to find the boy. It is discovered that Sam is an orphan and Social Services (Tilda Swinton) is called. Bob Babalan also appears (in voice-over and on
screen) as the Narrator.

Moonrise Kingdom is shockingly the first Wes Anderson film not to star Luke Wilson or Owen Wilson (Rushmore being the only film not to feature Owen). It is amazing how much I can love Wes Anderson while loathing Owen Wilson! Wes Anderson works terribly hard to ensure that his films are aesthetically perfect. Even in a passing shot, the costumes play such an integral role to the ambiance of the film. The best sequence of the film? There is a moment when Sam and Suzy's letters are related to the audience. Each letter flows into the other in a beautifully simplistic manner. And while I said that the story is not as evolved as The Royal Tenenbaums, I only mean to say that its characters are more juvenile - because they are younger! The Royal Tenenbaums is a perfect film. The story and the characters are so flawed yet redeemable. In Moonrise Kingdom I feel that we do not spend enough time with the characters. Sam and Suzy are on the verge of adolescence and I would love to watch how Anderson would handle their relationship through the various stages of their life. Anderson is a visionary and his films are painted with vibrant colour. Moonrise Kingdom lives up to the promise of its trailer and the promise of Anderson's previous films.

My rating: 3.9999999 stars out of 4.


  1. The soundtrack was pretty awesome too.

    Bruce Willis is the Owen Wilson of this film for me. I normally don't love him, but he's soooo good in CERTAIN films. I'm slowly starting to gain respect for him as an actor.

    And, damn, I love those movie posters! Especially the earrings one.

  2. This makes me want to see it even more. And I like that term, "the own wilson." It's true, I think I've only ever liked Wilson in Midnight in Paris. You should go enjoy some vintage Bruce Willis (pre-Die Hard) if you want to see him act. Also Death Becomes Her...just cause ;)