Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

Anyone who knows me, knows I put a lot of stock in the films I watch based on the director. When i get excited about something, it is usually because I like the director and his/her body of work. For instance, I am overly excited for Rian Johnson’s new film Looper, which comes out this September. With this in mind, Moonrise Kingdom is a film directed by the much beloved director Wes Anderson. My own personal feelings on Anderson included an appreciation, but only a mild adoration. I have not seen all of his film, and probably because none of them, save maybe Rushmore, are films I would jump at the chance to see again. His style is distinctive and he has a knack for writing witty, and very quirky, humorous film. So while I went out to see Moonrise Kingdom, I did not have unrealistic expectations.

True to form, Wes Anderson, along with writing partner Roman Coppola, crafts a film that is both entirely unique and entirely his own. Packed with an all-star, who’s who cast including Wes Anderson staple Bill Murray along with Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, the film truly features two newcomers as the core of the film. Sam, a twelve year-old (Jared Gilman) is the least liked Khaki Scout in his troop on a New England island in the summer of 1965, so he decides to run away. The island is mobilized to find the boy, only to too soon find that little Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) has also gone missing. The two, spurred by love, try their best to evade their searchers, but an oncoming storm brings new challenges to the escape and the search.

With a cast as big and as talented as this, it can be easy to lose people in the mix and also lose sight of what the purpose and story of the film is, just for the sake of giving each star their own time on screen to shine. But it is evident from the opening scene that Wes Anderson has a firm grip on his vision of what this story and this film would be, and that is nothing short of great. The camera moves from room to room capturing the Bishop family so fluidly, and then the title credits roll in scrawled calligraphy, punctuating the unique and personal vision that sets Anderson apart. He puts the kids, the main characters front and center, which is a treat given the kids seem perfectly suited for the Anderson world.

The rest of the cast is great in their smaller roles as well, highlighted by the ever fantastic Bill Murray as well as Bruce Willis. They deliver the dry material as only veterans could. Tilda Swinton I would definitely say gets way too little for how great she is, which isn’t a fault, but her presence only makes me want to see more of her. But where would these actors be without the real star of the film, Wes Anderson? I mean that wholeheartedly too because he is one of those directors whose films are immediately recognizable for the world in which they take place. This time he goes back in time to 1965, but the world is just as great, filled with beautiful costumes, colors and cinematography. He forms a world I would love to visit.

The sweetness of the story and innocence of the love Sam and Suzy share is what drives the film, and Anderson and Coppola do such a wonderful job of coloring in these kids and why they would want to run away together. Their individual idiosyncrasies are enough reason to root for their success, but their unpolluted ideals are what make their sentiments so sweet. The awkwardness of young love is explored, but they remain naive, young, and cosmically drawn to each other. This is a film that I can easily see myself returning to time and again for the joy of the Anderson universe, which is handled here as good as any of his other films. But I can more so find myself returning to the film to remember how simple and pure love can be when in the care of a pair of innocent twelve year-olds.

*** 1/2 – Great

One comment

  • 3.5 stars is about right for me too, but the more distance I get from this film, the more the glow wears off. I'm not sure this will have the staying power of Rushmore or Tenenbaum or Mr. Fox. I guess it's too soon to say and will require at least a second viewing, but right now my enthusiasm is waning. It could be just involuntary backlash against the hype.

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