"Moonrise Kingdom" Throwback Review
Wes Anderson is probably the best writer/director working today. Every three to four years he releases another cinematic masterpiece for us to pour our hearts to. Yet, for all those masterpieces you expect him to stumble once. Enter Moonrise Kingdom, a middling film that temporarily brings Anderson down from the highest heavens.
Set during the summer of 1965 in New England, Moonrise Kingdom tells the tale of Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two young lovers trying to get away from it all. Sam is an exceptional scout in Troop 155, but also holds the honor of being “the most unpopular scout.” Suzy is a dreamer who wants to escape from her misunderstanding parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and set out to do her own thing. The two kids have been pen pals for quite some time and plan to run away together. Once their plan is put into action, the island is sent into a frenzy as the adults try and track down the missing kids.
The biggest, and unexpected, problem the film has is with its main characters and story. Anderson’s stories are naturally perverse and offbeat, but they work because of their ability to tug at your heart all the way through. I didn’t feel any of that here. The central love story between Sam and Suzy was just too weird and bland. Nothing about it made we want to care or keep watching. The kids themselves are not good characters, coming off as too one dimensional.
The film also has another big problem, one that Anderson has been struggling with his whole career. All of his films are at their best in the first act, and then slowly get a little bit worse as time goes on. In most of his films like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, it’s alright since they’re still really good even at their worst. This film, however, dips further down than others, ending in a sub-par fashion that soured my experience. This was caused by having too many subplots and the entire main plot being too melodramatic to be believable.
This is very much a film for adults, even though the two main characters are kids. People who watch this film will most likely be reminded of a time when they were a feisty (and obnoxious) preteen who just wanted to get away from everybody. It’s an age-old story of adolescence and youthful revolt, but its one that never goes out of style.
Just like every other Anderson film, the camerawork is exceptionally done with trademark precision. Anderson and Yeoman use their patented symmetrical style to focus our attention on the middle of the frame. It will and always has been one of Anderson’s best features since it allows for the film be fast paced and heavy in details without being excessive.
The production quality is also well done. The houses and island itself are put together with respect to the time period and also the theme of the film. Light colors are heavily used along with bright light from the outdoors, which help us connect with the summer world and all its beauty.
The acting here is mostly all very good apart with only a few people being just okay. Gilman and Hayward do a good job with the challenging material. They convey great emotion and do their to save their characters. McDormand, Murray, and Ed Norton play backup as the scurrying adults. They each get their time to shine and deliver in full. Special props to Norton as his character is the most fun to watch.
Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, and Tilda Swinton all underperform here. Both Swinton and Schwartzman have done better for Anderson, and Willis just doesn’t do enough to be memorable.
Moonrise Kingdom is a film that showcases what happens to a director when they rely too much on what they do best. Apart from having brilliant production quality and sound acting, Anderson’s film doesn’t have much going for it. While it is a dip in form for Anderson, it’s nothing to worry about since we can still say he has never made a bad film.