Let me preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of Wes Anderson’s films and all the little quirks that come with them. I love being able to recognize a director’s work knowing that no-one else in the world could have made them but them, and Anderson’s work is very easy to identify. Then why was it that these quirks and visual motifs that are prominent in all of his films, seemed to irk me in “Moonrise Kingdom”. Right from the opening shot of the film, where we are witness to rooms of young Suzy’s house, it just rubbed me the wrong way and I do not know why. This is the stuff I usually love, but it just felt so self conscious here and so in your face that I reacted against it strongly. I am also sick of Wes Anderson’s obsession with the colour yellow, enough already.
The film is about two twelve year old kids who, after inadvertently running into each other at a school play one day, fall in love and decide to run away together. The young boy, Sam, escapes from his scout camp while Suzy leaves her well to do home (unnoticed until dinner time arrives) to meet at a predetermined destination decided between letters exchanged by the kids. When it is finally discovered that they are missing, it sets about the parents of the children, the scout troop and a local cop to fan out to try and find the young children. To make matters worse, a large storm is approaching the town.
I am at a loss as to why “Moonrise Kingdom” irritated me so much, I am hoping I just wasn’t in the mood for an Anderson film and that a second screening will find me loving it, especially due to the fact that a lot of critics have claimed it to be Wes Anderson’s best work yet. Despite it annoying me, I did not hate the film, and that was mainly due to the fact that I loved the love story between the children that is the heart of the film. It was beautiful seeing love portrayed so innocently, and the two actors that played Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward respectfully) were magnificent, especially young Hayward, I thought that she was a revelation and seemed to act beyond her years. The other standout was Bruce Willis who plays Captain Sharp, the sad police-officer of the town. This was a splendid example of against type casting that worked beautifully. I honestly would have never thought that Bruce Willis could fit so comfortably into one of Wes Anderson’s films, but he does just that and is a stand out. The other actors are all fine, but something just felt amiss with the Edward Norton casting in the role of Scout Master Ward, he just feels quirky for quirky sake, which irritated me.
“Moonrise Kingdom” sees Wes Anderson tackle the familiar theme of dysfunctional families again, with Sam being an orphan, while Suzy lives in a two parent family even though no one communicates with one another except via the use of a loudspeaker. She is thought of as a problem child, especially compared to her well behaved brothers and because of this she feels like an outcast. She also struggles with the fact that she knows about her mother’s affair with the local policeman.
Visually, the film looks just like a Wes Anderson picture as he has once again collaborated with Robert Yeoman as cinematographer, and as I mentioned before, the colour design of the film is heavily influenced by pastel colours and especially the colour yellow. It had a kind-of been there done that feel to it, but I will admit I did like the look of Suzy’s pink dress she wears throughout the film.
Overall, I was very disappointed by “Moonrise Kingdom”, worse in fact, the film irritated me. The love story at the centre of the film is actually beautiful and really well handled, but it was the Wes Anderson quirks that I normally love that drove me to distraction here. The worst of which was Bob Balaban’s narration of the town and island, that was far too self consciously clever for its own good. While the film looked good as usual, it unfortunately was nothing new, I had seen this all before from Anderson. Personally I would have loved for him to focus more on the love story and leave behind all of his eccentric characters and quirks that he is now famous for. As I said above, I hope it was just my mood of the day when I was viewing “Moonrise Kingdom” and that a second viewing may help in re-evaluating the film as brilliant, but as for now I can only just give the film a pass mark.