FILM REVIEW - MOONRISE KINGDOM
Running Length: 94 min
Release Date: 25th April 2102 (Ireland)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Director of Cinematography: Robert D. Yeoman
Despite a few minor issues, Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson’s strongest effort in recent years.
If Wes Anderson’s sophomore film, Rushmore (1998), united critics and audiences in praise of his ability to craft a film with humour, heart, style and substance, every movie he has released since The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) has divided them. Some adore his meticulously hand-crafted microcosms, quirky characters and auteur sensibility. Others find his style over substance irksome. While Moonrise Kingdom is unlikely to win any new converts to his cause, Anderson still seems incapable of making a movie that is not instantly recognizable as a Wes Anderson movie, and the film delivers on every level that faithful fans have come to expect.
Sam (Jared Gilman) is a young orphan with behavioural problems, and the most unpopular member of his Scout troupe (“By a significant margin”). He finds a troubled cure for his troubled mind in the form of Suzie Baker (Kara Hayward), an equally tormented soul and kindred spirit. Sam’s problems are a product of the absence of family, while Suzie’s are a result of having one. Francis McDormand joins regular Anderson alumni Bill Murray as Suzie’s equally dysfunctional parents, who use “Coping with the Very Troubled Child” as a guide to parenting.
Moonrise Kingdom is a return to the archetypal Anderson movie, following the quaint stop-motion kids-movie-that-wasn’t-a-kids-movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). The stylistic tropes that set Anderson’s work apart are evident from the opening credits; from the single tracking shot through the intricately theatrical sets that establish the compartmentalised dysfunction of the Baker family, to the recurring totems that the characters cling to, such as the Bakelite portable record player and Suzy’s stolen library books. Anderson’s films have always occupied a non-specific time period, unaffected by any form of pop-culture references past the 1970’s, so it is unusual to see that Moonrise Kingdom is specifically set in 1965.
The two young leads often give the impression that they are reciting a script, rather than acting, and Bruce Willis drifts through the film looking faintly bewildered. Much of the good work of the film’s first and middle acts is undone by an overly-dramatic final act, and a deus ex machina resolution which is more than a little patronising. Every Anderson film since the (unfairly) perceived misstep of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) has been hailed as a return to form, but despite a few minor issues, Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson’s strongest effort in recent years.