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 ignorant and the children are imaginative and free. This isn't particularly new to cinema, there have been many films that acknowledged the strengths and weaknesses of being a vulnerable young man or woman, and I suppose those are the films that inspired Anderson the most. Nevertheless, his scripts are mostly derived from real life experiences turned into exaggerated fantasies, although they never do stray too far from reality. This is what makes the characters, in a sense, relatable. The kids of this film may indeed all represent a separate part of Anderson; and the most important ones will nonetheless grow up to be just like all the adults he has studied in the past.
This is what makes the film a lot more interesting than your average foray into the realm of friendships and budding romances amongst kids. The story begins and remains on an island called New Penzance; which is explained in thorough detail by Bob Balaban, who acts as a narrator of sorts, although an unconventional one. The conflict begins at a "Khaki Scout" summer camp (reminiscent of the Boy Scouts), where a boy named Sam Shukusky (Jared Gilman) has just escaped into the wilderness. The scoutmaster (Edward Norton) is baffled by this and turns to Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), head of the police for the island. They soon discover that Sam isn't the only one who has escaped from somewhere recently. A local girl around Sam's age by the name of Suzy (Kara Hayward) has also fled from the comfort of her own home. The two had actually been involved in a by-mail conversation for over a year now, and had planned to meet up in one of the island's meadows.
Suzy brings with her a cat, her younger brother's (she has three) record player, and a bag filled with necessary things such as scissors, her toothbrush, and extra batteries for the player (although she does mention that she forgot her comb). Sam is dressed in Khaki Scout attire when he makes the great escape and comes prepared. Suzy has food; he has solid wilderness skills. Together they shall survive. But the parents of Suzy - Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand) - are on their trail, and they've also got the entire Khaki Scouts troop on their side. What we get is a chronicle of their survival, their eventual capture, and their second successful escape. What follows is to be seen, but not spoken of, for this is a magical film that deserves to be seen.
Above all, this is a love story; Anderson's first full-fledged one since "Rushmore", although all of his films contain many elements that could be considered - in a manner of speaking - "romantic". Sam and Suzy seem to be meant for each-other; he is an orphan, has never had many friends, and is therefore kind of a loner (his foster caretakers don't even want him back). Suzy acts out and is lonely like Sam; although she has parents who take notice, or at least they notice enough for her to discover a book on dealing with a troubled child that one of them has purchased. This being a Wes Anderson picture, one can expect the immediate melding of melancholy undertones and dry humor; and both work as spectacularly as ever. But by telling the story mostly through the perspective of preteen kids, Anderson allows the material to transcend further into fantasy storytelling than any of his other films have. So what I'm saying is that it shows a lot of range for him as a writer.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about Wes is his ability to seamlessly characterize the world that each of his films creates. This gift of his to do so is what saved the otherwise emotionally hollow "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" from being a full-on bore fest (quite the contrary, it's actually pretty good), and it's what makes all his other films so darned fascinating. He populates his movies with colorful characters - in this entry, the ones I haven't spoken of that are worth mentioning include a Social Services agent played by Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman as a relative to one of the Khaki Scouts, and Harvey Kietel as his boss - and his off-kilter brand of humor certainly assists in bringing them to life. Some characters in particular get big laughs; and in that respect I'll give a big shout out to Bill Murray, who once again proves that he's a multi-talented force of nature today as he was back when he was still doing pictures like "Stripes" and "Ghostbusters".
I hope the film gets recognition from the Academy next spring for Robert Yeoman's cinematography. He's worked with Anderson before on all of his features from "Bottle Rocket" to this (excluding the stop-motion "Fantastic Mr. Fox"), but this essentially exceeds anything he's ever done. The locations are absolutely gorgeous, and Anderson uses them to full effect. And then the music; oh God, the music. Anderson's soundtracks are always so rich with inspiration and detail; here, he's working yet again with Alexandre Desplat, but at the same time incorporating music by Benjamin Britten into the mix. As usual, the music sets the mood and increases the impact of the scenes that hit the hardest. But some of the best stuff is done in silence. "Moonrise Kingdom" is yet another great film by Wes Anderson that assures his status as one of my personal favorite filmmakers in this current generation of cinema; loved by many, certainly loathed by others. And like all his other films, I can't wait to see it again for I'm sure I'll find even more to love about it and relate to as I get more familiar with the images, the sounds, and Anderson's filmic kingdom.
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, … more
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 … more
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 … more
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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