Directed by Wes Anderson
Writing-Original Screenplay (Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola)
2012 / 110 Minutes
Time for another confession: sometimes I get the films of Wes Anderson confused with those of P.T. Anderson. Often I have to stop and think a moment about which body of work belongs to which director. This was doubly problematic this year as they both released pictures that wound up becoming Oscar nominated.
Turns out I have a love/hate relationship with the films belonging to Wes. More specifically it goes something like this: love Rushmore, hate The Royal Tenenbaums, extremely indifferent with regards to the rest of his cinematic output. Therefore I entered into watching Moonrise Kingdom with a bit of trepidation. Would I like it? Would I hate it? Would I care enough to feel either way? The star rating at the top obviously steals a bit of my thunder, but I’ll try to save my overall verdict for the end of this review.
The thing I loved most about Rushmore was its visual beauty. I was totally blown away when I saw it. In fact, it’s quite possibly the first film that made me sit up and pay attention to cinematography. Shot for shot I felt it was perfection. Would I have the same feeling if I watched it again today? I’m not sure, but it definitely left a lasting impression on me all those years ago. The “clever” camera work found in Moonrise Kingdom however is plain annoying.
Here’s an idea! Let’s place a camera on top of car! Why? Because we can, man! Throughout the film there are these split second shots from strange angles that do nothing to advance to the plot or enhance the story being told. In fact they have the exact opposite effect. They serve to remind the viewer that they’re most assuredly watching a movie. Why, using that car example again, would anyone ever be viewing a series of events from the top of a moving car? I could see how this might be an effective visual strategy for an action movie featuring a high speed chase or something, but we’re talking about one car traveling slowly down a dirt road by itself. Vantage point of the road ahead as seen from roof: pointless.
Maddeningly however, a large portion of the film visually is deeply striking. There’s a hilarious shot near a trampoline that is beautifully framed and a gorgeous cliff side view of a campsite can be seen as the movie’s main subjects, two young lovers, chat intimately with one another.
Alright, enough about the visuals already, let’s move on shall we?
The year is 1965. The male protagonist is a 12-year-old Khaki Scout orphan named Sam Shakusky who runs away from camp in order to rendezvous with an angry, misunderstood young girl named Suzy Bishop. The two meet up and take off together. Bill Murray, Ed Norton, and Bruce Willis try to track them down while Frances McDormand tries to hide the fact that she’s cheating with Bruce Willis from Bill Murray. The rest of the Khaki troop wants to murder the runaways. Jason Schwartzman wants to marry them. Tilda Swinton is brilliant as a social worker hell bent on sending Sam away to an institution. Crazy, quirky shit happens all over place. Fin. Wait, that sounds extremely dismissive.
While Moonrise Kingdom fails to deliver the goods in several key areas, it more than succeeds in a recreating the feel of endless possibility that comes along with lazy childhood summer days, first love, and the firm belief that we live in a just, fair world, where everyone gets their equal share of good fortune. Anderson’s overall message? You can beat young lovers down, you can separate them and stack the odds against them, but in the end nothing, not weather, not police, not scout masters, not even a woman named Social Services can keep them apart. Destiny is a powerful force indeed.
An A for effort, but a C for execution Mr. Anderson. Moonrise Kingdom isn’t a masterpiece, but it is a delightful film to watch when it stops trying too hard to impress its audience.
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