Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom


By guest reviewer Hayley Scott (@hayleys44)

Wes Anderson has obtained cult status with his repertoire and distinctive film-making style that has now become familiar yet still remains atypical. It has become customary that a Wes Anderson film should naturally incorporate all the necessary components to evoke that knowing feeling that you’ve been propelled in to a weird and wonderful world of eccentricities filled with quirky, flawed characters, all attractively glossed over with idiomatic colour and methodical cinematography that provides a dream-like quality. Comfortably placed amongst a charming yet small archive of cinematic gems, Moonrise Kingdom is certainly no exception to the usual Anderson aesthetics.

Wes Anderson takes us back to 1960’s small-town America in a film that fundamentally depicts young love between two idiosyncratic characters, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) and Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) both of whom are suffering the burden of unpopularity and troubled relationships with their parents. This fuels a well thought out plan to escape together, inevitably causing havoc throughout the town and creating a spectacle of miss-haps as a search party endeavour but initially fail to find their whereabouts. Meanwhile Suzy and Sam are poignantly content finding solace in a remote part of the coast without a care in the world; they share their first kiss and dance to Francois Hardy, all taking place to the backdrop of the enchanting New England landscape with imagery that looks almost animated at times, along with the fitting soundtrack of orchestral songs and cute pleasantries complete with the occasional nod to the decade in which it is set. The relationship between the two is irrefutably sweet and engaging; however their lack of acting experience is often evident in various scenes as they communicate with each other, although you could argue that this merely adds to the innocent and realistic child-like quality of the film.

In true Wes Anderson style, each character has their own unique quirks and peculiar personality traits that unleash appreciated elements of humour within the dialogue. Sam is an orphan; he is a member of the local scout troop, often adorned in a raccoon hat and rarely seen without it; he appears to be remarkably wise beyond his years, made all the more obvious by his mature logic and penchant for pipe smoking. Suzy likes adult Sci-Fi novels, her record player and the music of Francois Hardy; she is seldom seen without her binoculars, with which she uses to spy on her anxiety ridden parents, played superbly by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. Laden with trouble and unhappiness, her dialogue is consistently deadpan and static throughout, at times mirroring that of a young Margot Tenenbaum.

The scout troop leader, played by Edward Norton, is perhaps the most endearing character of them all as he provides a plentiful amount of dry humour in which he is somewhat nonsensical yet brazenly dedicated towards his role as Scout Master Ward. Referring back to the accusation that Wes Anderson’s fervour is for depicting flawed or troubled characters, Captain Sharpe (Bruce Willis) is another nod to that notion; he is lonely, depressed and discontent with life. The impact of so many characters each experiencing their own personal tragedies wonderfully embodies the parables of the troubles we face in life.

Not all characters are charming and instantly likeable however, in Tilda Swinton we are acquainted with a hostile and seemingly emotionless woman who works for the social services. She is often portrayed as villainous as both adults and children unite in their abhorrent dislike for the officer, fuelled by her quest to find Sam and send him away to an orphanage. Swinton plays this part effortlessly though, and only confirms her flawless acting abilities. Of course it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson film without Jason Schwartzman, and although he doesn’t play a significant part in the film, his presence is unavoidable as he provides gentle humour and a familiar likability during one of the pinnacle points of Moonrise Kingdom.

The narrative conveys a somewhat child-like interpretation of adult exposures such as love, depression, forbidden relationships and marriage, but it is accomplished in a way that is not patronising or dismissive of young love, it simply treats the subject with heart-warming innocence and charm that provokes a sympathetic response to Suzy and Sam’s situation. For some, Moonrise Kingdom might just be another Wes Anderson concoction of bizarre oddities, but for me it is Anderson at his best: unabashedly quaint and easy on the eye, yet not lacking in substance or devoid of a narrative that is engaging enough to stick with till the end; a story of young love that is perfectly executed and beautifully wrought.