Directed by: Wes Anderson || Produced by: Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Scott Rudin
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola || Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban,
Music by: Benjamin Britten || Cinematography by: Robert Yeoman || Editing by: Andrew Weisblum || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 94 minutes
Idiosyncratic it may be, but a knockout film it most certainly is not, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (MK) is a heartwarming, yet not-so-innocent tale of two young outcasts who fall in love. The social environment surrounding the love-struck couple is also under examination, exploring how both kids and adults alike react to oddball youngsters who don’t follow the suffocating rules of social protocol.
Most of the dialogue is funny, as is the case with every Anderson flick. While the delivery of said lines can grow tiresome when they’re coming from our two child-leads, many of the conversations with the adult characters are clever and provide ample moments for character growth. The most enjoyable character is Edward Norton as the clueless leader of the Khaki Scouts (an obvious play on the Boy Scouts of America), but both Bruce Willis and longtime Anderson-collaborator Bill Murray turn in good performances as well.
Anderson’s trademark camerawork and cinematography are as inventive and visually provocative as ever, utilizing wacky camera movements at precisely timed moments to describe the full geography of each scene. At times, this distinct style can seem almost too cartoonish and over-the-top, yet directer Anderson always knows the right amount of comical flavor with which to shoot each sequence.
The music and sound of the film are also commendable, matching Anderson’s visual style beat for beat. Easily the best sound FX are in the final act when a massive storm threatens to wipe the film’s isolated island-setting off the map. These combinations of wacky camera movements, interesting tunes, and creative sound-mixing make for some memorable cinematic moments.
What I had a problem with in MK were its two child leads. Neither Jared Gilman nor Kara Hayward are good actors, and they struggle delivering the classic Anderson misfit-protagonist dialogue. The fact that they are the male and female leads, respectively, and are thus central to the story’s focus, limits MK’s overall impact. They’re the main reason why I didn’t fall head over heels with MK. While I still consider MK an enjoyable film, I won’t be heartily recommending it to others as an introduction to Anderson’s filmography. I also feel our auteur-directer focuses too much on emphasizing these characters as oddball misfits and not fleshing them out beyond this stereotype. In short, I couldn’t get invested in these lead characters, neither in terms of performance nor writing, so my overall enjoyment of the film was subdued.
With that said, MK delivers in most other areas, including its efficient pacing, which keeps this taught, trimmed narrative at a lean 94 minutes. Anderson’s films always have been and continue to be short and sweet. As demonstrated, that often makes for effective filmmaking. Bollywood filmmakers could stand to learn a thing or two from Wes.
Taken as a whole, I see Moonrise Kingdom as an entertaining and admirable, yet ultimately unsatisfying drama given all the talent on display. It was merely OK when it could and should have been great. I like Wes Anderson’s style and I hold several of his films in high esteem, but this just isn’t one of them. It is not up to par with his best works on any level, save for its eccentricity, which alone cannot sell a movie. Lots of people can relate to the feeling of not fitting in, or know someone whose individuality causes them to be isolated, but the trick here is writing eccentric characters with narratives that we can relate to personally, and hopefully like. Check it out if you’re interested in Anderson’s work, but I have a hard time believing the average viewer would take too kindly to this adventure if they are not already well acclimated to Wes Anderson’s oddball style.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Moonrise Kingdom has plenty of humor, good performances, and Anderson’s trademark visuals to satisfy his residual indie fans, as well as most mainstream critics. That being said, I found the child-leads rather boring and uninteresting once I realized their personalities didn’t extend beyond eccentric misfits.
—> ON THE FENCE
? Mr. Anderson, being yourself is no way to get recognized by the Academy!