DIR: Wes Anderson • WRI: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola • PRO: Scott Rudin, Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales • DOP: Robert Yeoman • ED: Andrew Weisblum • DES: Adam Stockhausen • Cast: Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jared Gilman, Kara Hyward
A filmmaker like Wes Anderson is in a tough position. His visual style and direction is so well-known, so unmistakably his, that for him to try something different would be akin to committing career suicide. He has built up a reputation of making quirky films with colour-drenched scenes and razor-sharp dialogue. Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t break the mould in terms of his previous work. And yet, it is by far his most accessible film to date. The story takes place in the summer of 1965 on New Penzance Island, off the coast of New England. Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hyward) are two odd children who decide to run away together for a period of time. Sam, who is a Khaki Scout and wilderness expert, escapes from his summer camp and meets Suzy. Their plan is to retrace the steps of the local Native American migration. The scout master, Randy Ward (Ed Norton), takes his troop out to locate the runaways – along with the help of local police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).
Wes Anderson has crafted a touching film that isn’t bogged down by the usual overbearing dialogue that plagues his other films. The film’s strength lies in both the chemistry between the two runaways and their story. While it is very innocent and eccentric, their story is more based in reality than other films Anderson has made. This doesn’t detract from that other-worldly quality that are his trademark; it means that their story is more easy to relate to. Where the runaways’ story is centred around first love, the relationship between Murray and McDormand is strained and reserved. However, the film cleverly eschews delving into it. Theirs is shown through what the child see and, as such, the true state of their marriage is kept suppressed from Suzy. As well, Sam’s home-life is only brought up later in the film as it doesn’t factor in until it is needed. Anderson’s use of the supporting cast is inspired. No extra screen-time is given to Murray, Norton or Willis needlessly. The film’s central focus is on the runaways and their adventure together – not the search parties that are looking for them.
Moonrise Kingdom is a gentle, heartfelt film that never feels like it’s anything but sincere. Willis gives a fantastic performance as the good-natured policeman who only wants to help Sam. As well, Norton excels as the earnest scout master, all salutes and quick-smart marching. Bill Murray is, admittedly, underused as is Frances McDormand. However, a scene featuring the two of them is particularly emotional when, exasperated, the two come face-to-face with the reality that they’re failing as parents. It’s true, Wes Anderson is working with familiar material here. The film has certain echoes of Lord of the Flies and Roald Dahl stories, however Anderson has put his unique stamp on a timeless story that is sure to win over his fans – and may win him some new ones as well.
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) Moonrise Kingdomis released on 25th May 2012