Bottom Line: Moonrise Kingdom is a cinematic splendor and a work of art.
“Do not cross this stick.” –Jared Gilman as Sam
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jared Gilman, Jason Schwartzman, Kara Hayward, Tilda Swinton
MOONRISE KINGDOM is a truly nostalgic adventure, complete with strongly melancholy plot and characters that are much rather complemented than counteracted by an upbeat, optimistic air that rings joy to not so much the human ears as to the human heart. There’s the stylistically presented “you are there” film, when just watching you feel like an unwritten character that could have worked in every sequence…and just above that level there is this masterpiece. Set in 1965, MOONRISE KINGDOM is the thought-provoking result of a recipe highlighted thoroughly by adventure, comedy, drama, and romance. The story sets itself around a young boy named Sam (Jared Gilman) and a young girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward), neither one of them older than thirteen years old. Both are experiencing troubles in their respective lives: Sam is an orphan living with foster parents who could not care much less about him, and Suzy is repeatedly chastised by her emotionally distressing parents on a daily basis. Both have not one friend, and Sam is currently attending his annual Scout camp where every one of his peers mocks him for his grief. After a year of writing letters back in forth, the two decide to flee their unfortunate lives and meet up again that summer, where they fall in a young yet unrestrained love and live in a tent along the wooded area of their residential island, which lies off the coast of New England. It doesn’t take long for Sam’s scout master (Edward Norton) and Suzy’s parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) to grow worried and hunt them down, using their available resources: the exchanged letters and a patient police officer (Bruce Willis).
With every ounce of honesty, I can speak in a regard that I have never lived through 1965—the year just barely preceded the birth of both my parents, in fact—and as I would consider myself more of a strictly modern-day person, I’d be hesitant to say that I’d like to have lived through any point in that decade. Yet I say this with far less hesitation after experiencing the brilliant picture that MOONRISE KINGDOM is. It goes without saying that if a film narrates a particular time period, it should represent it. Take last year’s placement in the cinema, for example. If one were to watch THE HELP, albeit a potentially prosperous period piece, using a television with broken or muted speakers, there would be no way to tell that it was a narrative of the early 1960s. Whereas THE ARTIST was even more fascinating because of its ability to represent the 1920s with premeditated style. Though in its plot MOONRISE KINGDOM is extremely difficult to collate with any medium, it’s visually 2012’s THE ARTIST, placed forty years later. From beginning to end, we feel as if watching one of those old-fashioned, canvas-looking poster ads spring to life, set against a simplistic but nonetheless grand score composed by musical genius Alexandre Desplat. It’s difficult to say exactly which point marks the most utter brilliance presented in the film, but ultimately, I’d settle on the technical atmosphere.
I can’t say I’m terribly familiar with director Wes Anderson. I’ve wanted to give a watch to some of his acclaimed classics such as RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, but it seems I have not gotten around to doing so quite yet. After seeing the mesmerizing gem Anderson carefully pieced together within just the past year, I’m absolutely dying to seek out more of his work. I’ve said my peace about the technical grandeurs as well as those from the story, collaboratively and flawlessly scripted by both Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, with not a single word misplaced, forgotten, or wasted. It leaves the well-assembled ensemble cast. I’m aware that Anderson has assembled this way in previous films, and just seeing from one film, it’s clear how successful his hand is at the technique. Though the greatest standouts and leading roles are from the debut roles by Gilman and Hayward as the young, fleeing couple, there is a great amount of recognizable talent among the rest of the cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, and Bob Balaban. If there is one performer who impresses more than any other, it’s Murray. It’s rare for his delivery to be so outstanding; he’s the kind of actor who is great when he wants to be. Undeniably, this ranks as high up as his work in LOST IN TRANSLATION, GROUNDHOG DAY, and GHOST BUSTERS as some as his definitive best.
MOONRISE KINGDOM is an undeniable chef d’oeuvre. It’s one of the few films I’ve seen that fluently manages to blend quirk, wit, soul, and joy, to the very point of dazzling perfection. I can vividly envision the result in my mind, there just isn’t a word the English language provides to speak it. Anyone who has sat in a theater with me and so much as glanced down at me during the credits knows what I look like when my mind is blown in such a public experience. I’m mentally awake once the credits start, but the unfathomable emotion brought by the point the film ends stuns me silent. This happens, but very, very rarely. Perhaps if I was living in the 1960s, the age that brought several classics, it would happen very often. But I’m pretty sure I lived through the 1960s for at least the terse yet downright enthralling and involving ninety-four minutes of MOONRISE KINGDOM.