Moonrise Kingdom

Image from Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

Moonrise Kingdom tells an age-old tale. Boy meets girl, boy and girl run away, chaos ensues. The film’s star-studded cast (Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Frances Mcdormand shine most distinctly) are joined by child actors who take the film’s leading roles. Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two young teens, fall in love and escape from their wildly different homes to be together, thus throwing their families and the local law enforcement into an anarchic chase in director Wes Anderson’s 7th feature film.

That’s no moon. Moonrise Kingdom, like any Wes Anderson film, is very distinct in its aesthetic. From the composition and framing of the shot to the props, costumes, colors and lighting, the visuals maintain a focus and clarity in their delivery more often than not. All this culminates in an unrealistic, magical and picturesque display. That said, the first fifteen minutes are laden with smooth movements and still, symmetrical, frames which quickly devolves into, at times, shaky and blurry shots. While the shakiness in itself (if used well) is not an issue, it appears unrefined and not consistent with the style established in the first fifteen minutes.

“Jiminy cricket, he flew the coop!” Moonrise Kingdom’s premise itself was never going to set the world alight, but it’s the execution which starts the forest fire. All the characters are loveable and hateable in their own unique way and bounce off each other in hilarious and, at times, upsetting ways. It’s the diversity of the characters which creates the chaos which is the latter half of the film. This chaos, however, is not chaos like you’ve seen it before. In the chaos, there is clarity. You know why every character in the maelstrom is there, what they want, why they want it and how they plan to get it. While this is true, the film is severely oversaturated with characters and action towards the end leaving some storylines feeling a bit underutilized and under-explored.
A doll’s house. While other filmmakers are moving towards more naturalistic environments and tones, Wes Anderson has strapped a missile to his unicycle (you know he has one) and flown in the opposite direction. His worlds are built meticulously. Made not to look like our world, but to tell us something about his character’s one. Shots within houses are lateral and force all the elements into different layers creating a doll house. This, however, is not purely aesthetic and serves to illustrate Suzy’s feelings of entrapment. I love ideas like this being conveyed to me almost subconsciously. The film is awash with brilliant visuals which say more than any character ever could. 
Performance review. Moonrise Kingdom’s almost has two distinct casts. One cast is comprised of adults, whose characters explore more melancholic themes the film presents. The other cast is mostly comprised of children and playful adults (Edward Norton and Harvey Keitel fall into this, ahem, camp). The adult cast, in my opinion, collectively gives one of the best and most nuanced performances I have seen. It hits the metaphorical ball so far out of the metaphorical park, it lands in a literal one. Comparatively, the other cast is less impressive. The two leads are great performers though some of the other child actors don’t always hit the mark and can pull you out of the experience.

Fantastic performances hampered by inconsistent visuals and over-complicated plot.

Watch Moonrise Kingdom via iTunes or Amazon