Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 94 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
USA Release: 5/25/2012 (Limited)
On DVD (USA): 10/16/2012
Awards: 1 Golden Globe Nomination
After what seemed like eternity, I finally got to sit down and watch Wes Anderson’s newest film, “Moonrise Kingdom”. It’s been having a great run at the box office (even though its still in only 854 after it’s recent nation wide release) and has become a critical sensation. But seriously did you expect anything less from Anderson? I didn’t either. Walking into the theater I hoped that I would enjoy this like his other works, I mean it would have been such a waste of a 50 mile trip (since my town wasn’t showing it) to walk away anything other then ecstatic. Gladly I was just that…ecstatic I mean.
Set in the summer of 1965 on a lonesome island in New England we meet two misunderstood kids on the run. After meeting the previous summer at a church play Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) begin secretly corresponding during which they make a packed to run away together in a year’s time. After getting a few hours head start, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) realizes that Sam is missing from his “Khaki Scout” summer camp and is immediately reported missing to the island police head up by Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Soon a search party is formed including Suzy’s attorney parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) after they figure out that she is missing as well. And after finding their secret letters they begin the search across the island to find the two of them.
“Moonrise Kingdom” like pretty much all of Anderson’s films feature not only some of today’s best actors but also unknowns whose careers will surely skyrocket after the film, just look at what it did to Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Matthew Gray Gubler. All of them have gone on to do great things either in film or television after starting their acting career in one of his films. And I have no doubt it will be the same for Gilman and Hayward. Anyways another key feature that shows up in Anderson’s films are that everyone at least in the main characters and their families are always that of the intellectual kind and that is what sets his films apart from others. He doesn’t just include intelligence but also a quirky or eccentric quality that makes them stick out and that was not skipped in “Moonrise Kingdom”. Anderson’s storytelling (this time co-written with Roman Coppola) is always something of a treat because where ever they are set there is a sense of adventure somewhere in the story. In “Moonrise Kingdom” it seems that Anderson looked at his inner child as the story although set on a small island seems like a child’s adventure with endless activities in a day that could go on forever, that would only include the people he/she knows making the place look practically deserted or much bigger than it lets on. It captures the somewhat invisible transformation from child to adult (well the road to adulthood), from starting off as a simple runaway with innocence to a mature act of love and protection.
Anderson’s directing (along with Robert Yeoman’s cinematography) is another thing all together as he dives into a world all it’s own that somehow coexists along with ours, or maybe it doesn’t. And what ever the story is the way it’s shot follows along with color pallet and clearness. What I mean for example is “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is shot like a documentary, very grainy and lots of natural conditions and lighting. With “Moonrise Kingdom” it stay true to it’s time setting of the mid 1960’s while also incorporating some technics used during that time. For example wide shots that move into a close up which can be seen while they are on the beach. Also is the color pallet which is a mixture of browns/khaki and orange which keeps the colors vibrate but not as bright, and of course we can’t forget about the grain. What is also used that can be seen in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a sort of elaborate moving set going for room to room, which is used in the beginning to introduce characters and also at the end. And like layers of a cake form to perfection as the film unfolds in an hour and a half. Something else added to the layers is the score with includes Francoise Hardy 1962 song “Le Temps de l’Amour” and many instrumental pieces by Benjamin Britten conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
Like I said in the beginning you don’t expect anything less when it comes to a Wes Anderson film and that includes his choice in casting. Although this does not feature more than a handful of main and supporting cast members there are some key performances to take note of. Of the actors that are included the “Kahaki Scout” troop and Suzy’s brothers, all the actors involved did a great job. Their aggression towards Sam and Suzy gives to some great lines and underlining storylines. Some of the other actors to make a small appearance are Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben, Tilda Swinton as Social Services, Harvey Keitel as Commander Pierce and Bob Balaband as our Narrator. And although they all do a great job in their roles a couple of their roles had me questioning why Anderson went that way. For example having Balaband break character as just narrator and join into the cast for me that took something away from his performance. Schwartzman’s character was on a thin tightrope of likability as he teeters between kindness and obnoxious, but still were all entertaining. For Frances McDormand and Bill Murray as Laura and Walt Bishop were both great as lawyers, calling one another “consoler” and having Laura use a bullhorn to communicate around the house. And this just adds to the list of Wes Anderson films that Murray has been in, making this number six of being a brilliant yet sadly misunderstood man.
Then there are the more main cast that is made up of Edward Norton as Scout Master Randy Ward and Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp. These two are the ones that are heading up the searching while trying to do it in a safe way. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work and they are sent all over the island. As for the performances like with the rest of the cast Norton and Willis do a wonderful job. Norton as the Scout Master is stringy and takes his job too seriously calling it his main job. At times you wonder if this is Sam when he grows up as they are both gifted in camping and survival skills. While at the same time with the underlining story between all of the adult you wonder if Sam might end up as Willis’ Captain Sharp. Willis’ character is professional while also just really wanting to be with the one he loves.
Now I can’t forget the two breakout stars of the summer Jared Gilman as Sam Shakusky and Kara Hayward as Suzy Bishop. Both of these young actors who previously only acted in school and summer productions have had the ultimate break into the professional world of film acting with an impressive debut. Carrying themselves as there characters do, very mature and intelligent they were the prefect choice for the roles. Jared’s Sam is extremely adventurous wanting to escape from his now lonely life after losing his parents. His performance as this little boy/man with the oversized glasses, pipe and protective and loving heart may become one of the coolest characters in the history of film. As for Kara Hayward’s Suzy, she is also in the same boat as Sam having problems at home as her parents consider her a troubled kid. She gets overly aggressive when provoked but it seems her love of books and binoculars calms her. Like Sam she dreams of adventure but probably has never been on one. Her performance like Gilman’s is perfection as the little girl trying to grow up fast. And she may also become one of the coolest characters in film history as well, as least in the list of coolest kids. Another thing to praise is their chemistry which is amazing, they talk and interact like two brilliant kids with a deep love and fascination with each other. They could also go down as one of the best on screen couples. I would absolutely love to see them work together again.
Overall “Moonrise Kingdom” is another fantastic addition to the Wes Anderson collection. Along with it’s brilliant story that has a spontaneous rhythm it features a great adventure and innocent star crossed lovers theme, with marvelous performances from it’s entire cast. But it’s the performances done by it’s two young leads that deserves all the applause and praise, as they give a career jumping performance in their acting debuts. This is by far going to be one of the best films of the year and one of Anderson’s best, so don’t wait for DVD seek it out in theaters if you can.