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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom Review

Moonrise Kingdom Review
2012, 94 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking

Moonrise Kingdom is by far this year's best film and Wes Anderson's best.  It is as if Anderson took a preteen's worldview and put it on film.  Everything is very simple with vibrant colors and is as if it is out of a dream or a storybook.  The film follows two young adults who escape their town in 1965 and have various search parties after them.  The escapees, Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), are madly in love and they will do anything to stay together.

Anderson's films have always had an artificial and charming quality about them that almost always wins me over.  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a prime example of this.  It looks as if it popped right out of a '60s ocean documentary for kids.  Fantastic Mr. Fox is another example of this.  It is extremely stylized and looks like it is made of children's toys (and I mean that in the best way possible).  However, though his films may have superior wit and atmosphere, the stories fall apart at the end or the dialogue tries just a touch too hard to be witty.  The Royal Tenenbaums is the closest that Anderson comes to meshing his wit, story, and visuals perfectly (and even in that, the story gets too chaotic and falls apart towards the end).  With Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has combined the elements perfectly to make what is the best of his films.

The story of Moonrise Kingdom has many references to Peter Pan which give the film another dimension and add to the magic of it.  Sam and Suzy seem to want to escape to live life together without a care in the world.  They don't think of getting older or any logistical details as Peter Pan doesn't.  Peter Pan loves Wendy and takes her to Neverland to stay with him and love him forever, not thinking about the fact that she has a life back in London and parents.  At the preteen age, we as human beings don't think of later life or anything else but that which is happening then and there.  Sam and Suzy epitomize this mentality.  The setting of the film, New Penzance Island (Penzance could be a reference to The Pirates of Penzance which in itself may be a Pan reference with both pertaining to pirates), looks like Neverland with different distinct areas with creative names.  Also, in another sweet, but subtle reference to Peter Pan, Suzy reads the Khaki Scouts (the group that Sam ran away from that is like the Boy Scouts) a fantasy story, just as Wendy does for the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.  I found this reference to simply be a sweet and fun poke at Pan.

The references to Peter Pan and the storybook feel of the film really connected to me.  They are so different from the bland mainstream films that are made and "gritty realism" that so many directors try to infuse their films with currently.  While I love some hardcore realism, mainstream directors try to pass everything off now as gritty realism and fail miserably and that is precisely why I loved Moonrise Kingdom's feel.  It was a true escape from what life is like and was like a portal into a dream where life is straightforward, the settings are bright and beautiful, and emotions and feelings are not complicated, just black and white.

In Moonrise Kingdom, screenwriters Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola give the characters dialogue that is honest and to-the-point.  This style of dialogue adds to the artificiality of the film.  People only talk this way in a children's story.  And that is what children like to hear and seem to hear.  The actors, Gilman, Hayward, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman do a great job at giving Anderson and Coppola's dialogue the delivery it needs: deadpan.  The delivery is spot-on.

Another aspect where Anderson really works wonders is in the details of the film.  In one scene, Sam and Suzy dance together for the first time, but when they dance, they are standing as far away as possible while still holding each other showing the awkwardness of their romance.  Also, Anderson shoots Moonrise as if it was a '70s film with stationary shots and the occasional overdramatic zoom.  This adds to the feel of the film and some of the humor.

Overall, Moonrise Kingdom is a total triumph for Wes Anderson.  He keeps a tight control on his story and puts all of his signature elements together to make a stunning film.  This film is a must-see to remember above all that childhood is a time that should be cherished.

-Joshua Handler

1 comment:

  1. This is the best of Wes Anderson's films, everything feels and looks just right. You may or may not like what Anderson does, but if you do, you will definitely enjoy this, and that's and understatement.