Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Theatre in Cambridge.

Oh yeah, so Wes Anderson has a new movie, isn't that always nice? Moonrise Kingdom places him in familiar territory, managing a host of white people with family issues in quaint settings while awesome music plays in the background. This time around the story details the events surrounding the escape of young Sam (Jared Gillman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) from their oppressive living situations and the subsequent search for them by various adults and kids in the area of their small New England island. Sam, an orphan who is bullied by his peers and unwelcome with his foster family, quits the wilderness scout program after recognizing that he doesn't fit in. Suzy is volatile and feels misunderstood by her family, and hopes to find acceptance alone with pen-pal Sam. Her emotionally-distant parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) team up with local cop Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) to find the missing tweens. Oh and also it's 1965, and there's a big storm coming to the island.

Yes, Wes Anderson has made another Wes Anderson movie, and no it's not as good as The Royal Tenenbaums, but Moonrise Kingdom is a lot of fun and impeccably put together. The varied soundtrack includes an instrumental score by Alexandre Desplat, ramblin' tunes from Hank Williams, chic ballads from chanteuse Françoise Hardy, and of course a little Mark Mothersbaugh. There is an intricate level of detail in the sets, costumes, props, and framing, making for a visually complex experience that will certainly deepen on subsequent viewings. Anderson perfectly captures the rustic New England aesthetic, with dark woods and quiet beaches set against cloudy skies. And unsurprisingly, his style is absolutely suited to the 1960's, it's a wonder he hasn't set a film during that decade before. His penchant for outdated electronics, weathered books, and colorful costumes is finally applicable!

Here's the thing about Moonrise Kingdom: I love all the adults in it and their storylines, but I don't especially care for the kids. And this movie is largely about these kids. Now it's no secret that I'm not a fan of children in general, and in fact I tend to be uncomfortable around anyone younger than 20 unless they're related to me, so this may be a personal thing. But Sam is kind of annoying, and looks almost exactly like a creepy dude who lived down the hall from me freshman year of college. Suzy is ok, but a lot of her character felt like a retread of Margot Tenenbaum, only tinier. I liked her enough in the beginning, mostly because she reads the same type of books I did at her age, but she sort of fades into the background in the later scenes when it becomes more about Sam. Also I know some people are weirded out by the 12-year-olds-in-underwear thing but they don't do anything actually inappropriate, and let's not pretend like sexual awakening/exploration doesn't start around that age anyway.

For the most part this is a really enjoyable, and funny film. Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, and Frances McDormand are excellent additions to the Anderson roster, and I especially enjoyed Norton as the down-and-out Scout Master, who blames himself for Sam's disappearance and just wants to set things right. Bob Balaban was pretty adorable too. I liked it a lot, but it didn't resonate me in the same way that The Royal Tenenbaums does, and I can't help but compare the two. This feels lighter and a little more formulaic, but I think a rewatch is needed before I form a final opinion. I'm sure there are a lot of little details and references I missed.


Pair This Movie With: Perhaps Where the Wild Things Are for another, more fanciful tale of a child escaping his home life. Or honestly after this I just wanted to watch more Edward Norton movies, maybe Death to Smoochy.


  1. Ha! She reminded me of young Margot Tenenbaum too.

    Nice review.

  2. I also thought of Margot.

    It's funny, but I felt the exact opposite as you. I was more interested in the kids than the adults. In my post about the film (which will go up tomorrow), I explain why, but I still liked it as much as you did.

  3. I enjoyed reading your review - I'm intrigued as I know The Royal Tenenbaum's is rated highly by some people who's opinions I respect but I switched it off early on in the movie (a bad habit I have). I have obviously missed out on something good, so I'm gonna give it another go, and I will see this one too. I feel similar to you about children - I don't know what all the fuss is for children as an entity. As with adults... some I like, some I don't. I work with teenager so.....

  4. Oops forgot to say who I am (above). I'm Sandy and I work with teenagerS not just one teenager. Off now to have a large glass of water to rehydrate brain :-)