Director: Wes Anderson
Review by Jon Boriss
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a wonderful new movie from Wes Anderson. It is unmistakably his in all its bizarre melancholy humor, intricately designed sets, and fantastic use of music. It is one of his best and certainly one of the best films overall so far this year.
Set in 1965, Anderson’s first actual period piece, this movie stars two adolescents who conspire to run away and live in the woods together, if only for a few days. The boy is Sam (Jared Gilman), a restless orphan in the Khaki scouts, camping out and learning survival techniques. The girl is Suzy (Kara Hayward). Think of a younger Margot Tenenenbaum and you’ll get the idea. The two met the previous summer and became pen pals. In typical Anderson fashion we see all of their correspondence in extreme closeups.
Despite all of the major talent in the movie, these kids are most certainly the leads and if they hadn’t worked, the whole movie wouldn’t have worked. There is a bizarre charm to them and they fit amazingly well in Anderson’s very mannered and designed universe.
The rest of the cast is absolutely stellar. It wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without Bill Murray who plays Suzy’s sad-sack father, Mr. Bishop. Murray has always been great but I particularly like his late career solemn breed of comedy he has been doing. He is married to Mrs. Bishop, played by Frances McDormand, who is constantly running around with a megaphone barking orders at people. Bruce Willis plays Captain Sharp who seems to the be only police officer (even in a Wes Anderson movie, he HAS to play a cop) on the entire island. Edward Norton is Scout Master Ward, giving a much more sensitive and sweet performance than we are used to. Round out the case are Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, and Bob Balaban as the Narrator, popping up every now and then to break the fourth wall, but remains apart of the story itself as well.
What struck me most about this movie is just how funny and cute it is. I felt that with “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “The Darjeeling Limited,” two movies that are probably Anderson’s weakest but I did like. Anderson was falling into a more cynical and mean-spirited type of humor, but after “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise Kingdom” is seem like he’s found a new groove – movies really can’t get much more delightful than this.
Anderson writes his characters in a way where no one is ever trying to be funny. No one really smiles or is cracking jokes. In fact, this is all very serious, which makes it all the more hilarious. When a character has a thought, it isn’t really a deep dark secret like normal people have – they just say it aloud. It is that “heart on your sleeve” style I enjoyed so much.
Wes Anderson movies always feel like fairytales, so filtering that style through the eyes of children makes sense now. As with his last film, the animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” it feels like there must have been an “a-ha” moment to center the story on blossoming young love. The movie is sweet, funny, and as style to spare. If there is a better comedy or more poignant movie this year I will be pleasantly surprised. Don’t miss it.