Though Wes Anderson only makes a movie every few years or so (his last one being the animated The Fantastic Mr. Fox, adapted from the Roald Dahl book), they are almost all excellent. Moonrise Kingdom is no exception.
In true Wes Anderson fashion, the movie contains many subtle yet larger-than-life characters (are those two adjectives possible to describe the same people?), and cartoonish and delightful situations. Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of Sam and Suzy (played by the first-timers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), 12-year-old outcasts who have fallen in love with each other after being pen pals for over a year and have decided to run away together.
Much of the film revolves around Sam’s Scout Troop (led by Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward) and Suzy’s family (including her parents played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) searching for the two escaped lovers. To say that the cast is outstanding is the understatement of the century. Not only is the dialogue impeccably written, but the performances match every word. Norton, Murray, and McDormand are joined by Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, and Bob Balaban. All of them give pitch-perfect performances, giving the film the depth and the heart that it has.
Aside from these names, the cast is rounded out by a bunch of unknown kids. Gilman and Hayward lead the pack with terrific, deadpan, Wes Anderson-approved performances, but it does not stop with them. The kids that are cast as the other scouts in Sam’s troop, as well as Suzy’s siblings, really give the film the authentic feel that it exudes. With such a star-studded cast, often the minor roles get overlooked and filled with actors who simply fill the background. However, with Moonrise Kingdom, there are times that you forget you are watching Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, because they are overshadowed by the kids in Sam’s scout troop. Nickelby! Gadge! Lazy Eye!! These kids, with their two lines apiece and their amazing screen presence, really make the film memorable.
Wes Anderson also does a great job of capturing the period, from the wardrobe to the way the film is shot. Cinematographer Robert Yeoman, who has shot all of Anderson’s films going back to his freshman effort Bottle Rocket, really nails it with Moonrise Kingdom. The look of the film is (again, two adjectives that do not normally describe the same thing) desaturated yet extremely colorful, which is vintage Wes Anderson. This visual style, combined with the incredibly detailed production design, make the film a feast for the eyes. It really is beautiful to watch.
Moonrise Kingdom, however, is not for everybody. It could be considered slow at times and the humor is not for the easily distracted. Do you like Wes Anderson films? Do you like movies that take their time? Do you like comedy that is almost entirely character-based? Then you will probably like this film. You probably know what to expect going into it, and you get that in spades. If you liked Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, thenMoonrise Kingdom is definitely for you.
Movie Review by Mike Danner