Review: Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s seventh feature, Moonrise Kingdom, is a heartfelt tale about a new found love between two rebellious children and the madness that ensues amongst several adults in response. The boy, Sam (Jared Gilman), a determined twelve year old Khaki Scout and social outcast. He’s a young man who hasn’t found much purpose in his short life until he met the girl, Suzy (Kara Hayward). Detested by the emotional constrictions of her family and social life, Suzy runs away with Sam to start a new life in the photogenic wilderness of New Penzance Island. With the aid of Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), both the parents of Suzy (played by Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) and Sam’s Scout Master (Edward Norton) find themselves in a desperate search for the star crossed lovers.
All the elements that make up a great Wes Anderson film are present right from the first frame of Moonrise Kingdom. The relentlessly quirky screenplay, the colorful cinematography and classically fitting soundtrack never fail to make themselves noticed. As an Anderson fan, I won’t hide the fact that I got giddy in my seat during his countless trademark tableau shots. There’s no doubt that Moonrise Kingdom will please anyone who adores Anderson, although I wouldn’t recommend it as a gateway film for those new to his work.
Moonrise Kingdom resides amongst Anderson’s more endearing works. It’s a film about growing up, independence and innocence. These combined elements absolutely flourish as we watch Sam embark on his romantic journey with Suzy. Unlike many of Anderson’s past films however, he treats his familiar distressed family dynamic as background subtext rather than the main theme (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox). Instead, Moonrise Kingdom focuses on an intriguing sense of contrast. We see Sam and Suzie acting unusually mature for their age in the New England wilderness while the adults searching for them act more like frustrated and stubborn children. It’s a fascinating thematic aspect to observe and Moonrise Kingdom utilizes it to a tee.
The film boasts a simple yet finely polished screenplay. The dialogue is sharply written and all the major characters are developed to both satisfying and hysterical levels. As the film ended I found myself almost begging for more time with these characters due to their compressed screen time. Of course these wonderfully witty characters wouldn’t be who they are without Moonrise Kingdom’s dream-team cast. It’s a grand ensemble that only a director this wildly talented could bring together. A few Anderson regulars return including Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, along with several new additions like Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand. Some of the highlight performances include Edward Norton as Sam’s passionately strict Khaki Scout Master along the both members of the young leading couple. Trust me, these kids can act.
What Didn’t Work
This will be a rather brief portion since I thoroughly enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom, so here come the nitpicks. There were times where I felt that the film was a little too self indulgent on Anderson’s part. A few scenes are stuffed with so much of his infamous quirk that it felt somewhat annoying and even just plain unnecessary at times. An additional quarrel I had surrounds a subplot involving an affair between two of the main characters. I won’t go into detail as it delves into spoiler territory, however I will say that it didn’t support anything essential in the grand scheme of the plot.
My Final Thoughts
Moonrise Kingdom is a solid addition to Wes Anderson’s filmography. It delivers fantastic performances, gorgeous visuals and a bountiful of great laughs. If you’re a fan of Wes, I have no doubt that this is already amongst the top ranks of your must-see list for 2012, it deserves to be up there.