Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Directed by Wes Anderson; Written by W. Anderson & Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom fits perfectly into the auteur’s oeuvre: it’s vibrant (featuring Anderson’s trademark love of bold primary colors), witty, subtle, meticulous, fun, emotionally bittersweet, and most of all: sublime. Anderson, even with films such as Rushmore and The Darjeeling Ltd., makes it seem that this is the most fun he’s ever had making a film - it shows in the way he pulls out all the stops and tries anything & everything imaginable. With a 1960s New England island community, the host of a most serious boy scout camp that is run by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Anderson provides a fantastical, youthful tale of burgeoning love between two 12 year-olds, Sam and Susie. The two, like Romeo and Juliet, are not supposed to be together, as they come from completely different backgrounds and their families don’t want them together - this follows event that kicks off the plot of the film: the two escape their respective environments of captivity, Sam running away from camp, and Susie running away from the Bishop household (parented by a brilliant and humane pairing of Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), rendezvous at a meeting spot in order to live a life together, a life away from places and people that don’t understand them. Bruce Willis delivers one of his finest performances as police Captain Sharp, a lonely and lovelorn man of the law in charge of the hunt for the two missing children. The island is in turmoil, and all the while a hurricane makes its way towards the island, as we are told by our narrator, Bob Balaban. Every performance in the film is finely nuanced, and be on the lookout for Jason Schwartzman (in a scene-stealing role), as well as the wonderfully talented group of boys that play the scouts. However, the stars of the film are the two you’ve never heard of: Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. These kids are phenomenal. Gilman’s Sam is awkward, yes, but he’ll have your heart from the beginning of the film, and your sympathy for him only grows as you learn more about him. Maybe it’s a male prejudice due to her outstanding beauty, or maybe it’s because I could relate to her the most, but Susie (Hayward) was the most interesting character in the film - Anderson enthusiasts will see her as a young Margot Tenenbaum. The love that develops between these two quickly-maturing individuals is a delight to witness - We’ve all been where they are. Some of us are still there. The script by Anderson & Coppola is incredibly sharp, delivered with great care by the actors. Wes Anderson is one of the best American filmmakers to both write and direct. Ever. His direction in this film is masterful. Never before have I seen the pangs of youth captured in such a way. He makes an adventure out of the tumultuous days of longing and discovering, identity-building and embarrassment. His use of closeups brings us even further into this wonderful island-world that’s been created. With all of the colors and textures firm in place, each frame becomes a piece of still art - pause a scene in any of Anderson’s films and stand in awe as you notice just how much goes into every frame. The mis en scene in his films is like no other. Robert Yeoman’s cinematography is exactly what you would expect from his collaboration with Anderson - you’re going to get a beautifully lit shot and an aesthetic equivalent to an 8-Ball. Alexandre Desplat, who’s provided the music for The King’s Speech and The Tree of Life, delivers another astonishing score. The music, especially at the climax of the film, does what film music is supposed to do: it envelops you, consumes you in this fictive world. I couldn’t recommend this film to you any more. It simply is a must see. And if this is your first Wes Anderson film, then I recommend going to Rushmore next, then continue with The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic…, and then The Darjeeling Ltd.. Save Bottle Rocket for last - It’s his rawest film. Moonrise Kingdom is a beautiful, beautiful film; one that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. It was a spectacle of film work, and an honor to see in theaters. Please, do yourself the good deed of seeing this film, and make sure to reserve a special spot in your heart when you do.