I’ve heard of the name “Wes Anderson” before. Movie YouTubers I subscribe to often mention him with great respect, but I’ve never recognized the name or any particular movie associated with it. I watched Moonrise Kingdom without knowing who the director was, and I chose to watch it because it had actors I knew in a title that I didn’t, so I was curious.
Moonrise Kingdom is about a pair of pre-teen lovers running away together to escape from their monotonous and ill-fitting lives. What ensues is a small town’s search for the young couple, presented in a film that feels like both a fairy tale and a caricature of both childhood and adult life. This review will look at what the film does good, does bad, and does uniquely*.
The strange thing about this movie is that you can have three strong theses on what this film about. It could be a love story, a coming-of-age story, or a life story (finding where you belong). It’s acceptable to view this film through any of these interpretations either individually or simultaneously, and simultaneously is how I do and will remember the film. However, being a sucker for love stories it was the romantic aspect of the film that appealed to me the most.
As a love story Moonrise Kingdom presents a dubious premise, and this is one of the more interesting ways the film handles its presentation. The fact that Sam and Suzy are two prepubescent lovers makes us question how sincere their feelings are for each other. Puppy love is different from something on the level of Romeo and Juliet, after all. And yet we can’t help but believe (and hope) that Sam and Suzy’s love is real. The film helps us understand their attraction to one another and convinces us they actually have compatible personality types almost effortlessly and in an entertaining fashion. That is why I became so invested in their adventure, and by the midway point the most important question for me was whether or not they would be able to stay together.
Presentation also deserves praise. The film is aware it is a film, but unlike Deadpool it’s not trying to be funny. It is just is, and part of that is deadpan humour, part pathos, and part slapstick. I don’t want to give away any specific examples because of spoilers, but I can appreciate any film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t afraid of anything, making jokes that require off-screen connections and logic. This is a movie that assumes the audience has a brain, and so so sooooooo many films are the exact opposite, and that’s probably why Wes Anderson garners so much praise despite his films doing little that is particularly inspiring or revolutionary.
Related to presentation is cinematography, and Moonrise Kingdom is gorgeous to look out because it is so plain. The movie takes place in quiet seaside town, and the colours are organic and soft for the most part, but the camera angles and cuts do an effective job of cementing the images as part of the film’s identity. Long horizontal shots are common, and the effect is one of stimulating visual communication.
There’s nothing I can really complain about, but there’s always room for nitpicking.
The film makes an effort to come across as slow-paced and dull-witted when in fact it’s full of clever little things and moments, but some of that faux impression drags on just a little bit. Near the beginning in particular I can imagine some viewers waiting impatiently to see what the film is going to be about.
This may also be controversial (i.e., please don’t hate me), but I think Bruce Willis and Bill Murray’s performances were subpar. I don’t think this is the result of the script or their characters, because Frances McDormand and Edward Norton also had relatively “boring” characters but through their performances I was still able to care about them. Willis and Murray, unfortunately, were unable to inspire the same feelings.
The Moon Rises
I mentioned this earlier, but I think the number one reason why Moonrise Kingdom stands out is because it’s not afraid of being a movie. I said I didn’t want to spoil anything, but if you’re still reading this you’ve probably seen the movie already, so be warned!
Near the beginning of the film we see that Sam has escaped (off-screen) from the boys scouts by cutting a hole in his tent and placing a map over it. Why didn’t he just walk out the flap? Why the hole? Didn’t he have to reenter the tent to place the map over the hole? This film doesn’t give an ef about these kinds of logical questions, and it carries itself with such confidence that we don’t care either, and we end up laughing right along with it. This is what makes a film respectable, regardless of the fact that it’s about inept boy scout leaders and has two of the most down-to-earth young lovers ever.
The movie feels old-fashioned in the sense that it knows you’re just looking for an entertaining story, an it delivers without trying to be artsy, over-the-top, or pretentious.
Watch it! It’s a great movie that feels like a nice long breath of fresh air. The humour is different, the presentation is different, and you’ll likely end up wondering how you came to care for such monotone and plain characters. I’m not sure what to compare this movie too, and that’s a great thing. What I can guarantee is that you’ll be in for a unique experience. In an era of Star Wars spin-offs and superhero movies being churned out like clockwork, isn’t that worth a viewing?
This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.