‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Movie Review – Another Anderson Classic
It’s tough to find a middle ground between clever and overly artsy. Wes Anderson, for me, found this area in 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation was different and the writing was pretty much flawless. His newest feature, Moonrise Kingdom, isn’t as family friendly per se, but it is a great follow-up in terms of art, storytelling, and quirkiness. Doning a spectacular cast, Anderson delivers another fun film. Without his reputation, the movie may not have worked as well, but we shouldn’t hold that against him.
I had the opportunity to catch the film at the 38th Seattle International Film Festival where it debuts June 5th (at the Egyptian Theatre). Lucky audiences will get to see the movie starting today (May 25), as it opens in limited release across the U.S.
Moonrise Kingdom takes place in the New England wilderness during 1965. When a young scout named Sam (Jared Gilman) runs away (or “escapes” as they say), various outlets scour the countryside looking for him. Little do they know, but Sam has met up Suzy (Kara Hayward), his equally odd crush. The young heartthrobs believe they are independent enough to run away forever.
Three different groups are hot on their trail, though. First, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and the rest of his troops try to track them down. Then, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand) join in the hunt. Lastly, Social Services (Tilda Swinton) intervenes to take custody of Sam.
Anderson takes a very small-world approach to what seems like a deep story (on the surface). Childhood crushes may seem light, but independence and running away forever definitely are not. He presents every character like an exaggerated adult, even showing smoking, drinking, and marriage. All of this works great, especially since it is presented in such a dry and serious way. This undoubtedly makes it funnier. The comedy is set up by the writing, which was co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola. It’s not quite as polished as some of his other films, but it’s funny nonetheless.
The directorial style struck me the most, though. Right off the bat, Moonrise Kingdom uses a more mechanical camera style. With very little handheld shots, the camera tracks horizontally, vertically, in, out, up, and down. I’m sure it was intentional, but it added to the film’s style. While some pictures rely on more voyeuristic and “real” shooting styles, Anderson does the exact opposite.
Ultimately, Moonrise Kingdom dances the line between mainstream recognition and independent style with great finesse. Norton, Willis, Murray, McDormand, and Swinton headline the movie, but Gilman and Hayward are the debuting stars. The clever script, style, and tone set up a thematically rich, but still peculiar, story. Add in a great score (something I didn’t even mention yet), and you’ve got a bunch of reasons to see this movie.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, I’m done trying.