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Moonrise Kingdom

A film by Wes Anderson

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Stick with Just the Plot Description

  • May 26, 2012
Star Rating:

I know that somewhere within Moonrise Kingdom is a charming and poignant coming-of-age story. Unfortunately, whatever potential it had was ruined by director/co-writer Wes Anderson, whose perplexing cinematic sensibilities betray an inability to depict realistic characters we can actually invest in. There is no truth to this film. It depicts nothing more than odd people doing odd things for very odd reasons. We’re supposed to find this funny, but was the intention to laugh with the characters or at them? It’s a moot point since I didn’t laugh at all, although I did softly chuckle with incredulity at many points. It’s actually quite telling that the film takes place on an island off the coast of New England; as is the case with the locals inhabiting it, we have a story cut off from the rest of civilization, allowed to exist in its own narrow-minded little world.
Taking place in 1965, it tells the story two twelve-year-olds, the spectacled Sam (Jared Gilman) and the eye-shadowed Suzy (Kara Hayward), who fell in love after meeting backstage during a church play one year earlier. How and why they fell in love is anyone’s guess; during their first meeting, they do little apart from stare at each other with expressionless faces and speak in annoyingly droll monotones. Indeed, that’s how these characters always speak to each other. And oh, how I wished one of them had the ability to express an emotion. Anyway, their initial meeting led to a series of letters written and sent in secret. They then determined that they would run away together. Sam has what he believes to be the wherewithal to get them both across the island to a secluded location in the wilderness, as he’s a trained Khaki Scout with many badges to his name.

Sam – who smokes a pipe, despite being twelve – was taken in by a foster family following the demise of his birth parents. It’s precisely because of this that none of the other Scouts like him. When it’s reported that Sam has disappeared, his foster parents decide, rather nonchalantly, that they don’t want him to come back. Suzy, with her permed hair and neat dresses and shoes, has a bit of a psychotic streak, as evidenced when she stabs one of the Scouts with a pair of scissors. When she runs away, she brings with her a kitten, a mini record player, a French pop record, a series of obscure fantasy novels, and a pair of binoculars, which perpetually hang around her neck. She works towards making everyone apart from Sam despise her. This would include her parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), who are oddballs in their own right. The mom especially; she has to communicate to her three pouty boys with a megaphone.
A few adults join the search effort for Sam and Suzy. Apart from Suzy’s parents, we have Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), a stickler for protocol, and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), a police officer who’s having an affair with Laura. Ward brings with him his troop of Khaki Scouts, who each have their own colorful nicknames and talk like soldiers from a sanitized World War II movie. They’re eventually joined by Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel), who’s even more militant than Ward about the Khaki Scouts. While on the run, making the strangest and most inexplicable of alliances, Sam and Suzy are introduced to Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman), who can hook you up with anything ... so long as you can actually pay him. Meanwhile, a woman known only as Social Services (Tilda Swinton), who looks like a cross between a telephone operator and a flight attendant, makes it clear that Sam must be taken into protective custody.

Parts of the film are narrated by a character appropriately named Narrator (Bob Balaban), who dresses like an ice fisherman and provides little detail apart from descriptions of the island itself. He also provides us with a quip or two about an approaching storm that plays a very prominent role during the final act. All leads to a final confrontation on the steeple of the local church, at which point there’s thunder, lightning, and torrential sheets of rain pounding on Sam and Suzy. Captain Sharp is there too, although I won’t delve deeply into the reason why. Let is suffice to say that he has gotten to know Sam over a can of beer. Not a glass of milk or a bowl of tomato soup or a ham sandwich, but an honest to goodness can of beer.
Admittedly, Anderson shows creativity with his camerawork. During the opening credits, for example, we explore the rooms of Suzy’s home as if it were a cutaway section of dollhouse, the camera making very smooth and rigid pans in left, right, up, and down directions. Let it also be known that his use of color is unique; the palate of this film is comprised entirely of bright, bold shades of red, green, pink, and tan. But when it comes to plot and character, I don’t pretend to understand where his mind is at. When you describe Moonrise Kingdom as the story of runaway adolescents falling in love, it sounds very compelling. But there’s a big difference between a description and actually seeing something with your own eyes. If this movie were concerned with real characters and plausible situations, it would actually be worth seeing.


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December 25, 2012
I enjoyed your review and agree with your comments. I didn't like the movie at all, but then I didn't care for the other Wes Anderson films I've seen. The humor escapes me.
July 19, 2012
My first four star rating of the year.
July 21, 2012
I guess Anderson's style of humor isn't for everyone, me least of all.
May 27, 2012
Hm, this does sound interesting and I will likely enjoy this when I am in a certain mood. I was just telling @ that the descriptions are intriguing, but not sure if I'd want to see this in theaters. I'll rent it.
May 27, 2012
I have a natural aversion to films that have no real reason to be eccentric. When characters are developed solely on odd quirks, it's almost impossible for me to invest in them. But I seem to be the only one who feels this way; the audience at the screening I attended was clearly comprised of people who appreciate Wes Anderson's style of filmmaking. I think I was one of the few in the theater that wasn't laughing.
May 30, 2012
I think you're right about characters who are nothing but quirky. There was some of that in "Royal Tennenbaums" and it sounds like there is more there. Thank you for the interesting wearning. Well done.
May 31, 2012
Thanks for the comment. I wanted to like this movie, but Anderson really seemed to be working harder towards pushing me away. He must be aware that not everyone shares his sense of humor.
More Moonrise Kingdom reviews
review by . July 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    Wes Anderson's deadpan tragicomedies have always featured flawed individuals; a lot of them adults. Most of the time, the children are not in the spotlight, but merely side characters victim to the emotional suffering of their parents and/or older friends. But get this. In "Moonrise Kingdom", Anderson is reversing his formula while at the same time retaining it. His newest film features mainly young protagonists; grounded in a plot in which the adults are …
review by . September 26, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
   Moonrise Kingdom could be very well defined as an exquisite work of art that simply requires from it's viewers to lock-on in their seats and disappear in this utopian jungle full of cat food and badges of marksmanship. Wes Anderson delivers his best film to date, a film that mirrors the same themes of childhood goofiness, unprejudiced love, and the desire to escape, all curdled into this colorful and expressive tableau.      At first you might reason that Moonrise …
review by . May 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A bit slight for a kingdom
MOONRISE KINGDOM Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola Directed by Wes Anderson Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward and Bruce Willis   Captain Sharp: Even smart kids stick their fingers in electrical sockets. It takes time to figure things out.   Wes Anderson is an auteur, through and through. His style is unmistakable – from the deliberate cinematography, wide angled and colourful, to the soundtrack, usually folksy and reasonably obscure. He even works with the same …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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