It would be foolish to think that I could do this review without mentioning Wes Anderson upfront. A quick history lesson on Mr Anderson: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr Fox, Moonrise Kingdom. If you have seen any of these films, you’ll understand when I say Moonrise Kingdom is so obviously a Wes Anderson film, and if you like his style, you’ll more than likely enjoy Moonrise Kingdom.
Set in a quaint town in 1965, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is a 12-year-old orphan who escapes from a ‘Khaki Scouts’ summer camp to meet up with his long-time pen pal Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), daughter of Walt (the incredible Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand). The two had met a year prior to their escape and had made a pact to runaway. Sam and Suzy are complete opposites. Sam is practical, positive and nerdy, he knows how to build fires, navigate the terrain and paint watercolors; mostly landscapes but a few nudes. Suzy is brooding, beautiful and culturally aware. While Sam brings maps, weapons and a pipe, Suzy’s luggage includes books, her cat and a record player, think Margot Tenenbaum. They hike and camp for several days while Suzy’s parents, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Social Services (Tilda Swinton) attempt to find the two runaways. They finally capture them at a secluded cove that Sam and Suzy named Moonrise Kingdom, a place where their young relationship grows into the cutest thing since piglets that fit into a tea-cup. They are forbidden to see each other, which concerns them because Sam is about to be shipped off after his foster parents refuse to look after him anymore. In a strange twist, Sam and Suzy are helped by the people who seemed least likely to help.
This charming and beautiful tale of young love is quirky, dysfunctional, hilarious and at points, absolutely bizarre. I loved every minute of it. The cast were outstanding, with Anderson regular Bill Murray, as well as new comers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who were both incredibly captivating. And if that list of talented actors hasn’t blown your mind, let’s chuck in Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Huckabees, The Darjeeling Limited, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.) and Harvey Keitel, just for good measure.
The music score, by recurring collaborator Alexandre Desplat, was spot on and set the mood of each scene perfectly. And the art direction, oh the art direction. When I grow up, I want to be the Art Director for Wes Anderson. Visually, Moonrise Kingdom made me want to weep in a meticulously decorated corner. I have never see any film as stunning. Every tiny detail, down to the colour of Sam’s foster parent’s phone was accounted for. The costuming told a story of it’s own and was a visual shorthand for describing each character.
It’s biggest downfall is probably the storyline. Anderson has never had terribly complex stories, or characters that you cared too much about. They are usually difficult to relate to and obviously fictitious. However the uncomplicated themes are often the catch, what draws you in, and in this case, the simplicity of love, without the baggage grownups bring with it, left me with a similar feeling I get when I read The Little Prince.
If you’re already a Wes Anderson fan, there is no doubt that you should see Moonrise Kingdom. If not, a warning about Anderson films, they’re eccentric, unconventional and unlike anything you’ve seen before, but give them a chance. It may take more than one go, but you might find them making their way onto your top 10 list, with the Blu-Ray on your shelf to prove it. The first time I ever saw The Life Aquatic, I fell asleep… in the cinema. But I gave it a second chance and can now almost recite the whole film. Thank you Wes (we’re on a first name basis) for filling my memory with useless quotes and my heart with endless hope.
Reviewed by: Nerice Collins