PG Cooper: Moonrise Kingdom Review

Posted: June 17, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: May 25th, 2012 (limited)

Running time: 1 hour and 34 minutes

Written by: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, and Bill Murray

Wes Anderson is one of the most acclaimed directors of the last fifteen years. His films Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums have been met with universal praise, and his Fantastic Mr. Fox was also very well-received. And sadly, I have never seen any of these films, or any of Anderson’s other films for that matter. I’ve had a great interest in his work, but I’ve never gotten around to seeing them yet. Once the trailers for Anderson’s newest film, the intriguingly titled Moonrise Kingdom, came out, I found myself in something of an odd situation. On one hand, I thought perhaps I should pass until I had a better sense of Wes Anderson’s filmography. But on the other hand, the trailers for Moonrise Kingdom looked awesome. I wasn’t sure what to do. But once it started receiving critical acclaim, I realized it was too big to ignore. So, is Moonrise Kingdom an exciting introduction to Wes Anderson, or has it turned me away from the man?

Moonrise Kingdom is set in 1965 on a small island and follows two twelve year old kids. Sam (Jared Gilman) is a young orphan who’s part of a local scout cub, and Suzy (Kara Hayward) is a young girl living on the opposite end of the island with her brothers and dysfunctional parents, Walt and Laura (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). The two kids meet during a church performance and become pen pals. After writing to each other for a year, the two decide to abandon their boring and controlled lives and run away together. Once word gets out that they’ve run away together, a search party is put together that includes police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), cub scout master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) and his collection of scouts, as well as Suzy’s parents Walt and Laura.

Moonrise Kingdom is a ridiculous film. Though the story seems pretty down to earth, it’s told in a ludicrous manner. The adults act more childish than the kids, and certain scenes range from improbable to impossible. The distinct visual style compound to the almost fantasy-like feel. It’s insane and bizarre, and I loved it. No, the film isn’t realistic, but so what? Reality is overrated anyway. I found the bizarre tone interesting and actually very refreshing. Told in more conventional ways, I’m sure the story would still have been very interesting, but I commend Anderson for having the courage to take risks.

There’s a lot of great performances from known actors in this. Bill Murray delivers a great performance as Walt, Suzy’s father. There’s a certain sadness to Walt that Murray really brings to the screen. The way he speaks, moves, and just the way he looks evokes a sense of disappointment. Murray also plays off co-star Frances McDormand (who’s also quite good in this) very well. Not to mention several of the film’s funniest bits come from Murray. Edward Norton delivers the best performance I’ve seen from him since 25th Hour. It’s hilarious seeing Norton play such a goofy character with so much conviction. Goofy as his character is though, there are points where you really sympathize with him, and eventually respect him. Bruce Willis is great as a lonely police captain, and actors Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel all of very fun cameos.

As great as the adults were in the film, I knew they were going to deliver. With a cast of such calibre, I’ve come to expect great performances. What I didn’t expect was the quality of performances from the child actors. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are both great as the lead protagonists. Both are very likable, and they have good chemistry together. You root for them to succeed throughout the film. I also like how the film didn’t avoid the darker sides to their characters. Likable though they may be, these are two seriously disturbed children, and the film never pretends that they’re not. The performances from the other children in the cub scouts are also solid.

Stylistically, this film has a lot going for it. There are several impressive tracking shots, but almost every shot has something interesting about it. I also really like what Anderson and cinematographer Robert Yeoman did with the colour scheme. Some scenes had an almost golden like shine to them, while the film’s climax had a really cool dark blue thing going on. Credit also goes to the film’s soundtrack, which made smart use of some good tracks, particularly Francoise Hardy’s “Le Temps De L’amour”. Credit should also be given to Alexandre Desplat for a short, but very impressive score.

Intriguing as the story is, Moonrise Kingdom also benefits from very strong humour. The film is very funny, albeit in strange ways. This isn’t a funny film in the same way 21 Jump Street is, where they constantly through jokes at you. What makes Moonrise Kingdom funny comes more from things like the style and the story. None of the actors feel like they’re playing for laughs, in fact they play their parts very straight, which actually makes it funnier. Also, while not every scene is laugh out loud hilarity, the film is constantly amusing. That said, there some very big laughs here, some of the biggest I’ve had all year.

A big part of the film’s success lies in its excellent script, penned by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. The dialogue is very sharp, the characters interesting, and the story flows well. I also found a lot of the themes the film studies quite engaging. The film looks at adolescence, what it means to grow up and what you have to give up, relationships, love, and rash decision making. The way it looks at adolescence is certainly the film’s most prominent theme, and the contrast between the adults and the children help make it all the more interesting. I also find the film has an interesting overall message, one I won’t give away.

I feel a déjà vu, similar to what I felt when I saw Midnight in Paris around the same time last year. That was another example of a film from a director whose previous works had gone completely unseen by me at the time. And like Midnight in Paris, I found myself loving the film and wanting to seek out the director’s other work. The big difference is that Moonrise Kingdom is actually better than Midnight in Paris. At this time, Moonrise Kingdom is the most complete film I’ve seen all year, featuring the consistency of The Avengers as well as the ambition of Prometheus. Oh and Wes, you can consider me a fan.

Rating: A+

Comments
  1. alec96 says:

    This was my most anticipated movie of the year, has a great director with his own style, and my favorite actor Edward Norton. Great review and can’t wait to see it.

    Here is my latest review if you want to see it = http://moviereviewer96.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/review-its-kind-of-a-funny-story/

  2. I’m probably not going to get a chance to see this on the big screen, but am looking forward to seeing it at some point. Love your description of the movie & your words tell me I won’t be disappointed, as quirky & slightly left of center are what I expect of Anderson’s characters! Great review!

  3. rochpikey says:

    I have been dying to see this movie. Three of my all-time favorite actors are in it: Willis, Norton, and Murray. Gotta love how Murray is taking on the more dramatic but still comedic roles, like his role in Get Low. Just wish this one was playing in my area so I could see it! But I am glad to hear this one should live up to my expectations. Great review!

  4. Yeah I have seen 30 reviews that seem to point to it being very good, so I will have to check this out. Trailer looked good :D

  5. sanclementejedi says:

    PG, I Saw this last weekend and I loved it. Nice to see a film with a strong script for a change. You got to hop on seeing those other Wes Anderson films. Although, I think Moonrise might be one of Anderson’s most accessible films. great review

  6. CMrok93 says:

    This movie was pretty freakin’ awesome and I hope that Anderson can at least keep this up. Because whenever this guy is on a roll, he keeps it going but you never do know with him.

  7. r361n4 says:

    I’d actually never seen this poster before and it reminds me sooooo much of the royal tenenbaums, lol. I definitely understand why Anderson’s style doesn’t click for some but this movie more than any other has cemented me in the camp of Anderson fans. I like the way you put it that this movie feels simultaneously down to earth and ludicrous, I feel like that’s what makes Anderson’s movies stand out. I loved the combination of deadpan humor and over the top quirkiness.

    Anyways I’m pretty new to the blogosphere but feel free to check out my review if you’re interested. I look forward to reading more of your reviews in the future :)

    http://rorschachreviews.com/2012/06/30/moonrise-kingdom-review/

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