Moonrise Kingdom * * * *

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Director: Wes Anderson.
Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola.
Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bob Balaban, Larry Pine, Eric Chase Anderson.

When viewing Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, the usual adjectives spring to mind; Quirky, off-beat, idiosyncratic, original. It’s all of these things and further confirmation that this man has a unique style all his own and (thankfully for his fans) he doesn’t seem in the mood for changing that anytime soon.

In a small New England town in the 1960’s, young boy scout Sam (Jared Gilman) decides to run away with local girl Suzy (Kara Hayward). As a result, his Scout Master (Edward Norton) organises a search party and teams up with the Sheriff (Bruce Willis) and the young girls parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand) to track them down.

This is a very strange little film indeed and possibly one of Anderson’s strangest which is saying something. However, it’s also proof that the king of quirk hasn’t lost his touch. His pallet is once again sumptuous and his attention to detail meticulous – to say the least. The whole film is painted in vibrant pastel and autumnal colours and there’s a sharpness and texture to his images. Quite simply, the film is gorgeous to look at and special credit must go to Anderson’s regular cinematographer Robert Yeoman in his ability to capture such a magical land. Ensemble casts are also becoming a regular feature of Anderson’s works and this is no different. He’s amassed a very impressive collection of top-quality performers here and every one of them are excellent. A number of them play against type with the most memorable being a melancholic Willis and an ingenuous Norton; Murray and McDormand are no slouches either and deliver their usual reliability – as does Swinton – but the likes of Schwarztman and especially Keitel are given very little to do. Ultimately though it doesn’t really matter about the familiar faces onscreen as it the young actors that impress the most. The two young leads in Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are superb and fine support is given by the young boy scout crowd. Much like Alan Parker’s “Bugsy Malone“, it’s entertaining to see youngsters behave with grown up mannerisms yet despite it’s nature it’s never played for laughs. Most of the actors play it straight which adds a deeper sadness to this, deceivingly, lighthearted tale. Beneath it all though, it’s essentially a right-of-passage story as it focuses on the progression from childhood to adolescence while on the periphery delivers an effective contrast in the disillusionment of adulthood. Despite it’s air of sadness though, it’s the charming innocence and wonderment that shines through. It’s yet another thoroughly enjoyable Anderson adventure but somehow it didn’t resonate as well as his previous films. Maybe I was expecting too much or maybe it will grow on me like “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” did after a couple of viewings. As much as I had fun with this, I think I will have even more second time round.

As a self confessed Anderson fan, even I wasn’t fully prepared for his overstated quirkiness here but that aside, this is still an accomplished piece of work.

Mark Walker

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44 Responses to “Moonrise Kingdom * * * *”

  1. Excellent write up. I really need to give this on a watch.

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  2. Great review, just saw it recently and although I’m not a big fan of his work I really loved this movie. Like you say it looks beautiful.

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  3. Ah Moonrise. This is one of my favorite movies of the year. You mentioned so many things that resonated with me. I remember leaving the theater anxious to see it again. Nice write-up bro.

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    • I can’t wait to see it again Keith. It doesn’t compete with The Darjeeling Limited for me but I have a feeling this is a film that will grow with several viewings. It certainly is one of the better films of this year.

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  4. Great review mark. I was really disappointed I missed this during it’s short run at my local cinema, so i’ll definitely make sure I pick it up when the Blu ray hits.

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  5. Saw this with my kids over the summer and we loved it. Fine review, Mark.

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  6. Magical Realism. Seemingly real but not quite right. Somethings missing. We’re meant to see things through Sam and Suzy’s barely teenage eyes but I see the adults view. The Bishop’s live in a lighthouse, Ward lives in a tent and dresses in a boy scout uniform, Capt. Sharp can’t believe what’s happening on his island yet is fully ready to adopt Sam and society’s over-all purveyor is known only as “social services”. Something’s missing. What they’re missing is what Sam and Suzy are experiencing. Young love and innocence. For me it recalls Nabokov’s “Lolita”, not the sex you pervert, the never ending hopeless search for first feelings lost forever!
    Not quite the “Royal Tannenbaums” but still magic.

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    • I actually thought the story was very simplistic when you boil it down Ray but it the manner in which Anderson tells it that makes it stand out. There was something, and I couldn’t tell you what, that was missing. As I mentioned in my write-up, it didn’t resonate with me as Anderson’s stuff normally does but I still greatly admired it.

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  7. Great review, though I disliked this one. It seemed very empty and the emotions between the young couple and especially the connection they were supposed to share weren’t well portrayed, due to the lack of character development. I did love Willis and Norton, though, they should play against character more often.

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    • Thanks Sati. I can understand people not liking this one and also understand your feelings in character development but it had so much style and off-beat humour that I found it hard to resist. The performances were excellent right enough and it’s great to see Willis and Norton step out their comfort zone.

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  8. Man, I so badly need to see this movie!

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  9. I hated this one. This film was a perfect embodiment of style over substance…and not even admirable style. Subplots were completely dropped (what happened to the cheating wife of Bill Murray), characters completely wasted (Tilda Swinton and Jason-camp-director-dude), and it had quirk just to be quirky.

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    • Strong views there Alley but your entirely entitled to them. You could be right on it having quirk just to be quirky and I know Anderson doesn’t always appeal to everyone. I find his films really refreshing though. I wouldn’t say this is his best but it was still very good.

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  10. Great review. This has been my second favorite film of the year after The Master. I think this is the strongest of Anderson’s work, and he’s made plenty of great movies.

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    • Thanks man. It’s certainly one of the years best so far but I also feel it’s been a poor year. That shouldn’t take away from this little treat though. The Darjeeling Limited is still my favourite of Anderson’s and I’ve yet to see him make a bad film. This only confirms to me that the man can do no wrong.

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  11. I enjoyed this one more than I thought, but in hindsight I think I like Fantastic Mr Fox more. Like Keith said, I like Bruce Willis in this too, he’s often good in a more understated performance. Bill Murray is a bit underused as well but hey, he’s in sooo many of Wes’ films so it probably isn’t a big deal šŸ™‚

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    • I prefer Mr Fox as well. I think I was expecting a little more from this one but I suspect I’ll enjoy even more when I see it again. Willis was rather good though wasn’t he. They were all good really but I agree that Murray wasn’t used to best of his ability. Still, it just a pleasure to all these actors share the screen.

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  12. Still so pissed I havent gotten to see this yet.

    Oh well, just a few weeks more and it’ll be out on Blu Ray šŸ˜¦

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    • I’m surprised to see you swinging by if you haven’t seen it yet Fogs. I thought that was one of your rules? Or did you not bother to read it? LOL. Either way, it’s always good to have you around. šŸ™‚

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  13. One of the best movies of the year and I only hope that Anderson keeps this winning-streak alive and well and doesn’t give us crap like The Life Aquatic. Hopefully, though. Nice review Mark.

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    • Cheers Dan. I actually liked the The Life Aquatic but it took me a couple of goes before I finally appreciated it. I thought it was shit the first time but it grew on me over time. I’m with you on Anderson winning streak though. He’s delivering the goods regularly. Long may it last.

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  14. Haven’t seen that but I’m going to watch it later this morning, after camping out in WordPress blogs, because I really like Edward Norton. This is a work of his that I missed.

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  15. Great review, Mark. I agree that the Anderson quirkiness can sometimes be a bit much, but I’m really looking forward to this one.

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  16. I’m glad his campy style (no pun intended) was on full blast here, I don’t think it would have worked very well if he dialed it back.

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  17. It’s quirky and has a very dry sense of humor but I didn’t think it was over-the-top as such. One of my favorite films of the year so far.

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    • I’d also rate it as one of the best of the year Castor. Like I’ve said to a few others, I think I’ll rate this even higher on a second viewing. Originally I never took to The Life Aquatic but I love the film now. Normally I take to Anderson straight away and I did here but I just felt that some of the praise beforehand that it’s his finest film left me with too many high expectations. Thanks for commenting Castor. A pleasure to see you here.

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  18. It was gorgeous to watch and I also loved the music! Sadly my theatre lit the lights way too early, as the after texts started. It was just me and a handful of others who stayed and enjoyed the final piece of music.

    This film is very likely to end up at my top 10 this year, even though the competition will be fierce.

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    • I’ve yet to see a lot of stuff from this year but I too believe it’ll make my top ten Jessica. I’m looking forward to another viewing of it though. I think I may have missed some subtleties. As always with Anderson’s films there is more when you sit down to them again.

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