Since I loved Wes Anderson’s last film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, I was really looking forward to Moonrise Kingdom. I entered the film with great expectations and it’s fair to say that the movie delivered. From the opening shots, I was swept away simply by the film’s beauty.
Why To See It:
Like Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom is visually stunning. The way the camera captures the inside of a house during the opening credits is brilliant and the rest of the movie is filled with wonderful camera work. The colors of the island are vibrant and I fell in love almost immediately with the film’s visual poetry. Moonrise holds the same sharp editing style that resides in Anderson’s earlier works. The movie’s humor is found partly in the strategic editing, but most of the great comedic moments are created by the film’s leads. Edward Norton performs to perfection as a Khaki Scout leader who loses one of his Scouts and goes on a hunt to find him. Bruce Willis plays the police officer who aids in the search. Though he isn’t particularly memorable here, Willis seems at home in the role. There are also two performances in the leading cast by newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. The two play pen-pal tweenagers who decide to run away together and live on the beach. While I usually find movie romances between kids silly and awkward, Anderson seems to embrace the situation. The work of Gilman and Hayward underlines the awkwardness and inexperience of the two leading characters, inviting many laughs throughout the film’s duration. The usual Anderson players are included as well. Bill Murray has a role as the girl runaway’s father and Jason Schwartzman has a minor part as well. It’s certainly fun seeing all of the familiar faces. Others are Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton.
Why It’s Not Perfect:
A main criticism of Anderson’s movies is that they embrace style over substance. While I personally love the quirky style and don’t mind sacrificing a little “substance” for it, some have found that Moonrise Kingdom is too much like Anderson’s six earlier efforts. Because I have only seen a few of the director’s pictures, I can’t say that this was a distraction to me. A flaw that I encountered along the way was that there were few surprises in the story. It didn’t make the movie boring or pointless, but the focus was so much on the style and characters that some plot points were easily predictable.
I have not seen enough of Wes Anderson’s movies to claim that Moonrise Kingdom is his best, but I have a hard time believing that he has ever directed a more beautiful film than this. This is a great-looking movie and it was one of the funnest experiences I’ve had at the movies in months. I highly recommend this one and expect it to make my Best Films of 2012 list later at the end of the year.