Dan's Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Dan's Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Ah, Wes.
Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features)

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

Starring Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Kara Hayward, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Jared Gilman, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, L.J. Foley, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jake Ryan, Charlie Kilgore.

Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola.

Directed by Wes Anderson.



That quirky Wes Anderson. He's always making funny movies about eccentric people who seem to be stuck in some sort of 1960s/70s time warp. It's no different in Moonrise Kingdom, the story of two tween lovers trying to escape their lonely existence on a northeastern island in the mid-1960s.

Jared Gilman plays Sam, an orphan 12-year-old Khaki Scout (a version of Boy Scouts) who falls in love with Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) and plans an escape from his scout encampment led by Soutmaster Ward (Edward Norton). Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) are both attorneys whose marriage seems to be falling apart. Adding to their marital troubles is the fact that Laura Bishop is having some sort of romantic affair with the island's only police officer, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Sam's fellow Khaki Scouts would love nothing more than to find him, since they don't like him very much, and plan to inflict violence upon his discovery.

When the two lovers escape into the wilderness, Ward, Sharp, the Bishops and Ward's scout troop embark on a island-wide search for the kids, who make an encampment on a small, secluded inlet.

When the authorities catch up with the kids, "Social Services" (Tilda Swinton) is contacted, who makes plans to place Sam in an orphanage that resembles a prison. The kids seem doomed to remain separated, until the Khaki Scouts come to their senses and realize they haven't been very nice to their comrade. They plan a daring escape for Suzy and Sam, whisk them away to another island where a "Hullabaloo" ("Scout-o-rama," or "Pow-wow" in Boy Scoutspeak) is taking place at a fort, ruled by Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel). One of Sam's comrades also has a cousin working at the fort named Ben (Jason Schwartzman) who is somehow qualified to marry the young couple, even at the age of 12 (although unbinding). The "wedding" takes place, but a hurricane spoils their getaway.

Moonrise Kingdom is vintage Wes Anderson, complete with his own special brand of absurd comedy. His camera angles and cinematography closely resemble looking at a diorama. The film print has a constant sepia tone to it, giving the impression that the movie was actually shot in 1965. The humor is feeds off the depression and escapist dreams of his main characters (usually involving children), and often include children speaking about or experimenting with sexual activity. There is also the usual compliment some of Wes Anderson's favorite actors in Moonrise Kingdom, including  Schwartzman and Murray (I guess Luke and Owen Wilson weren't available).

I have been a fan of Wes Anderson ever since I nearly broke a rib laughing at 1998's Rushmore. His other films have been equally brilliant, leading up to 2009's animated classic The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The appeal of Anderson's humor has always been rooted in the eccentricity of his characters as they interact with each other in real-world settings (with the possible exception Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). In Moonrise Kingdom, the setting is much less realistic, making it more of a fairy tale/fable. That absurdity can be distracting, making Moonrise Kingdom perhaps a little too "Wes Andserson-y" for its own good.

While Moonrise Kingdom delivers the Anderson formula quite effectively, others unfamiliar with his quirky brand might wince a little at its weirdness. For Anderson's fans, it's a good news/bad news experience. The good news is Anderson does the same thing he's done before. The bad news is, Anderson does the same thing he's done before, which makes Moonrise Kingdom feel more like a part of the director's body of work, rather than a unique stand-alone film.

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