Moonrise Kingdom (2012), directed by Wes Anderson
Wow, is this film ever stirring up a lot of debate. Those who can’t stand Anderson seem to have had enough and are drawing the line, while those who love him are fighting back with their quirky opinions and quirky arguments. And it’s all being set to an obscure Rolling Stones 45 from the ’60s.
Personally, I’m a huge Anderson fan but Moonrise Kingdom honestly isn’t my favourite film of his. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. I did. But it’s certainly no great departure from the typical Anderson film, nor even the culmination of the Anderson style. Rushmore is still the peak in my opinion, but I even enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox more than this one.
What is the Anderson style? ’60s music. Well spoken, overly confident characters. Isolated universes. Some degree of magic realism. Earnest heartache. Lush, but somehow old fashioned colour schemes. Shots from above (as made notorious via this YouTube video).
In a more general sense Anderson’s films are small in scope, heavy in quirk, but always made with heart and a real sense of style. They are quirky but rarely post-modern, aside from The Life Aquatic, which is in my opinion Anderson’s worst film. They have a certain sense of surrealism to them at times. They focus on isolated locations full of isolated characters (a school, a house, a train, a farm, a submarine), yet find a way to feel universal and personal.
Moonrise Kingdom follows along these lines. It takes place on an island, completely isolated from the world. It takes place in the 1960s, so it’s the first Anderson film that looks appropriate for its time (note: rash generalization for a joke). It has a great cast of children that talk like adults. It’s all set to a Hank Williams soundtrack, with some French pop and instructional classical records thrown in for good measure.
Really, for me, the film is a pleasant, highly enjoyable lark, but not much more. The kids are cute, the movie is fun to watch, it’s really a pure pleasure, but I don’t see in it the things that make me think Anderson is something more than a highly capable director of candy movies for hipsters. At times he has made me think that, or has made me think he is an even better candy movie director, but Moonrise Kingdom really didn’t strike me as anything more than a romp.
I feel like a grump. Or at the very least, a fence sitter. Hear me out, I really enjoyed the movie. The acting is great, especially Norton, Willis and the kids. There are some genuinely hilarious moments, as well as some honestly sweet ones. As a whole the film is stylistically lush and detailed and a pleasure to the senses. It’s a wonderful movie, probably one of the best of the year so far.
But something still held me back. While I can appreciate that Anderson is refining his style, even pushing it, I can’t help but wish that he might do something a little different with it, mix it up a little. You go into this movie knowing what to expect and you get exactly that.
That’s a horrible criticism of a film really, because movies that succeed at what they’re trying to accomplish should generally be praised. But in the case of Anderson, who I have so much respect and admiration for, I really want to see him get outside of his comfort zone. I want him to stretch a little. I want him to show other filmmakers how to do it, not just cut himself off in his own little world. It’s a wonderful world, and probably living in it is what keeps him alive, but I long for a glimmer of ambition.
Maybe that’s not fair, but that’s how I felt as I watched Moonrise Kingdom. Go see it, it’s simply lovely. But that’s the extent of it.
Moonrise Kingdom is in theatres now.