Moonrise Kingdom – Review

Film: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel

Directed by: Wes Anderson 

Produced by: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales

Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Running Time: 94 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Wes Anderson makes his directorial return with Moonrise Kingdom, his first effort since the acclaimed animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and his first live-action film since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited.

Moonrise Kingdom is about two adolescent misfits named Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), and how they fall in love and run away into the wilderness of a picturesque New England island. Their disappearance prompts a comical search led by a police captain (Bruce Willis), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) from Sam’s “khaki scout” summer camp, and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray — a staple in Anderson’s films — and Frances McDormand).

The strengths of Moonrise Kingdom are the strong performances from the star-studded cast, the score and soundtrack, and the beautiful visuals. This latter aspect was some of the best work we’ve seen from Anderson in this area; each scene is so vivid and detailed, and the bright colors and settings match perfectly with the whimsical tone of the film.

Willis gives a subtly effective performance as police captain Sharp, showing us a more nuanced side that makes one (that one being me) think of his performance in The Sixth Sense. Yes, totally different films and totally different characters, but both required more acting depth, particularly beyond the John McClane side of Bruce Willis (but that guy is pretty cool, too). Norton, one of my favorite actors who I appreciate most for his gritty roles in films such as Fight Club, 25th Hour, American History X, and Primal Fear, also displays a more comedic side which in turn shows us his range as an actor.

It was also nice to see Anderson-favorite and Rushmore star Jason Schwartzman appear briefly in the film, as well as Harvey Keitel, who I didn’t even realize was in this movie until he appeared late. And how funny was the fact that Tilda Swinton’s character was actually named Social Services? That bit was particularly amusing to me. Oh, and before I forget, I thought the two kids — Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both in their first movie — were excellent and that they really understood Anderson’s style.

The other great element in this film was the music. Alexandre Desplat’s score, as well as the prominent use of Benjamin Britten’s classical music, not only fit in well with the movie, but was one of its most memorable aspects. I especially enjoyed the prominent focus on the instrumentation in the score in the film’s end credits.

My only real complaint with the film was that the story seemed relatively shallow. Now, before legions of Anderson fanatics jump all over me, let me explain myself. I’m sure there was more to the story than what we saw on the surface; I interpreted is Anderson commenting on the struggles of adolescence, but how ironically, adolescents can be better than adults at absorbing the finer points of life in the here-and-now. Anderson was likely trying to convey more than just that, but that’s the core idea I took away from Moonrise Kingdom.

Thus, maybe I was too unclear; I don’t think Anderson’s film had no message(s) at all. Rather, I just thought the way it was presented was shallow. I enjoyed the funnier elements in the film, but if Anderson was trying to convey anything profound, he didn’t balance the comedy with enough truly impactful moments. I might sound like I’m picking here, but I just couldn’t help but feel like the film was missing something. In short, I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom purely in an entertainment sense, but I didn’t glean anything extraordinary from it. Oftentimes when I see movies, that’s fine, but not when I’m expecting to get something more. Consequently, I didn’t really latch onto this film very strongly.

Nevertheless, I think that Moonrise Kingdom is one of Anderson’s better efforts (although I still think The Royal Tenenbaums is his best film), and he certainly scores points for uniqueness. The performances, aesthetics, and acting were all great. If there would have been something stronger to connect with, Moonrise Kingdom would have been excellent.

Tommy D’s Score:





3/4 Tommy Ds

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About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on July 1, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I agree that the film comes off as shallow but I think that is kind of the point. I mean the focus of the story is the love between two barely teenage kids whose relationship is kind of shallow. They like each other without really knowing the other. But to me that is kind of the strength of the movie. But yeah this movie doesn’t really have a message. I did enjoy the music score too, it added to a lot of the situational humor of the film. Solid in depth review!

    • You’re right; the story was intentionally shallow and was supposed to ironic. I just didn’t really become enveloped in it as much as I had hoped. Still an enjoyable film though. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Sounds like a fairly good film. Thanks for the well written, nice review. Are you going to see The Amazing Spiderman on Tuesday.

  3. You could probably just copy this review, change the names of the actors, and use it for every single movie Wes Anderson has ever made.

    • A valid point. Anderson has his style and it’s unique, so you gotta give him props for that. I like his work, but I oftentimes don’t find myself as absorbed by it as a lot of other stuff.

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