It’s not often that I see a film that I really, really love – but this was one of them. I’m not even a Wes Anderson fan per se – I was bored by Life Aquatic, and I’m not sure whether I’ve seen Royal Tenenbaums, which means that even if I did it probably didn’t make much of an impression. Yet I absolutely loved this.
What in particular appealed to me? The melancholy, innocence and purity of the storyline certainly. The warm-hearted tone. But also the absurdist humour. It really is a gem of a movie. It’s more common that my head gives a film five stars (The Godfather). Yet it’s far more unusual that my heart goes with it (Lost in Translation being the only one I can think of right now).
***Review for my East London listings shindig***
Moonrise Kingdom is an engrossing movie from idiosyncratic filmmaker Wes Anderson. It incorporates several of Anderson’s trademarks – detailed, exacting scenes, a distinctive visual look, Bill Murray – but elevates them by also being funny, sweet and sincere.
A peculiar narrator (Bob Balaban) sets the scene: the cast of characters inhabit an isolated island in New England that is often beset by storms. Two twelve-year-old misfits, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), have fallen in love, and decide to run away together. In pursuit are Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), the island police chief Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), and Scout Master Randy (Ed Norton), along with his young but well-armed scout troop.
Anderson’s eccentric style is pretty well-known, and his fingerprints are all over the direction and cinematography, with linear sideways shots of family scenes (like a doll’s house carved open), letters and photographs peppering the screen, and richly textured scenes planned down to the last detail – such as Sam’s pipe, Suzy’s beret and binoculars, and Suzy’s mum’s ridiculous loudspeaker. Yet Moonrise Kingdom is also extremely funny, with absurdist moments such as Ed Norton leading his scout troop off into the wilderness, Bill Murray slouched against a half cut-down tree, and a poignant conversation held while an oblivious scout trampolines in the background.
The narrative is imbued with the innocence of childhood, an innocence that is enhanced by the 1960s setting, harking back to a ‘simpler’ time, while the scout troop allows a levelling of adults and children in the narrative. The film may be traditionally American in its characters and setting (and music: Hank Willians), yet there is also a French aesthetic present (and music: Francoise Hardy).
Moonrise Kingdom has all the trademarks of a Wes Anderson film, yet not of the drawbacks. It is typically smart, yet not self-important. It is quirky in its dialogue and mannerisms, but also wonderfully warm-hearted and genuinely funny. Anderson has succeeded in telling a story about childhood and innocence without sentimentalising or patronising its subjects. It’s an engrossing, moving movie, and can be wholeheartedly recommended.