Cert: 12A Runtime: 94 mins Director: Wes Anderson Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Francis McDormand, Jason Schawrtzman, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel
I’ll be outback. I’m gonna find a tree to chop down
Wes Anderson is a very unique director, he creates what he wants and will not care if you hate it. Moonrise Kingdom is his latest release, it opened up Cannes film festival to rave reviews and critical acclaim. I was lucky enough to catch it in the cinema over the weekend. The plot is simple, in the summer of 1965, on a small island off the coast of New England, two 12-year-olds fall in love. Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) then make a pact to run away together into the wilderness. Now the hunt is on to track down the runaways and bring them home safely. Among those taking part are local sheriff Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) with his Khaki Scout troop. Just to make matters worse for Suzy’s eccentric parents, Mr and Mrs Bishop (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand), a violent storm is brewing offshore. That is pretty much all you need to know.In the past, Anderson has whirled us from melancholy dreamscapes set deep below the Pacific to tales of inter-generation betrayals in the name of love, from doomed romances in Paris hotels to deliriously bizarre animal revolutions in the English countryside. But for all the retro-stylings his films so proudly wear, Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson’s first period piece – a tender love story set in the sepia-soaked sixties of Anderson’s youth that have worked their influence into every one of his movies. It is fitting that this film is his most childlike – not in any way any simpler than his other films , but an accurate and deeply heartfelt depiction of childhood. It is not aiming to be as crushingly dramatic as Life Aquatic or as deeply tragic as Hotel Chevalier, because that wouldn’t be appropriate for the story it’s trying to tell. Instead, while still bearing Anderson’s still surprising streak of black humour, it is largely concerned with the dramas and tragedies of youth.
The plot is absolutely delightful and sweet. It’s such a touching and loving story which also feels like a love letter to the children’s adventure books of which Suzy reads throughout the film. Though they read these books, the children long for an adventure of their own and have finally embarked on one. The characters are equally enchanting. Sam and Suzy are somehow both old beyond their years but also very much still children. They have obvious intelligence and wisdom but convey it through a child’s eyes. They are on the cusp of adulthood but somewhere in between. The acting of Hayward and Gilman is superb and again both feel both older than they are but also very child like. They are great. The adult characters are also great without exception. Bruce Willis is a sad and lonely cop who patrols a quiet island and although he has his faults is very kind and caring. Edward Norton is an exemplary leader who also has a big heart while Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, both lawyers, talk to each other using mostly legal language and although are not really in love with each other, care a lot for their children and want the best for them. There are also small cameos from Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton, all three of which were welcome and provided something. The adult cast on the whole was fantastic.
Cinematography wise I didn’t think this movie was particularly spectacular, especially in comparison to other Wes Anderson movies like ‘The Life Aquatic’ or ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. There were a couple of shots that were cool though, some really long zoom outs and the doll house type ones that I love and think are awesome.I wouldn’t expect to wet your pants laughing at any moment in ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ but it is funny. There are a couple of laugh out loud moments and as a whole the jokes are pretty sharp and intelligently done. The reason I like the humour in this movie is that it’s a part of the ambiance and feel of it, it won’t make you crack up but it will make you have a smile on your face for pretty much the whole thing and leave you feeling strangely happy.One of the strangest things about these films, and this one in particular, is that they tend to rehabilitate certain aspects of patriarchy. Male leadership is portrayed more in terms of responsibility, maybe even burden, then as power or prerogative. In the end, the dads step up and do the right thing, though.There were elements of the film that were surprising and even a little difficult for me. The kids were only 12 when they shot this, and they do have a sexual awareness of one another, and since we’re watching it unfold, we’re obliged to participate in a sense.And I was kind of surprised by the death of a dog in the movie, and not entirely sure what to make of it. I tended to take it as evidence that the film is more formally mannered than it is precious. One of the best films I have seen in 2012.