Wes Anderson, it is safe to assume, has always had his own filmic style. A norm in which all his productions follow, differentiating his work from that of other movie Directors within the industry. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ – being his eighth production – is no different. Random in places and holding an almost pastel like quality and colour range, the film is often described as an ‘eccentric pubescent love story’ that is both emotional and meaningful. Even though this film carries an ensemble cast – another norm for Anderson’s productions – it does rely heavily on debutants Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward to carry the storyline along. Outstanding in the lead roles, these two children allow the film to feel endearing, sweet and realistic despite their relative lack of experience.
Beginning with a slow moving camera pan that is kept as a long cut, the film establishes itself with one of the best opening sequences in recent years. Smooth yet mysterious, this opening manages to set the tone of the production and outline one of its key leads.Filling all the space within the frame, Anderson manages to deliver a lot of information in a short amount of stylised time – this is followed throughout the rest of the movie with beautifully shot sequences, well edited moments and brilliantly scripted conversations between characters. Using medium close-ups a lot and working them to within the films context, audience interaction is heightened with engrossment levels being expanded well beyond what is expected from a film of this genre. A master of his own style, Anderson manages to present a meaningful movie with both a written credit as well as the aforementioned directors role. This multi-tasking professional, never seems to take his eye of what he wants to achieve, having the sequences already established within his mind. By doing both roles well, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is always how the director had planned his vision to be.
Telling the romantic relationship of two 12 year old children, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ takes place in September 1965. On a New England island called New Penzance, Sam Shakusky – a troubled orphan – is attending a scout camp led by Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton). Suzy Bishop is a resident of the same island, and since a year previous has been a pen-pal of Sam’s. Mature for their ages, both children have fallen in love over their writings and have decided to run away together and begin a relationship. Leaving the safety of his camp, Sam meets Suzy and the two hike, climb and fish; whilst travelling to a secluded section of the island. Desperate to find the missing children, the Scout Master, Suzy’s Parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) begin to hunt them across the rural and varied island landscape.
The plot is relatively simple but still sweet and smart, with much attention given to the diverse array of characters that feature within it. Cleverly edited, the film utilises a mixture of quick cutting sequences and almost commercial like moments in telling its story. Using quick cuts that establish different parts of the production, the film seems to move at a brisk pace but still remains easily understandable and fun. Using the intelligently written script as the manner in which the movie progresses – as apposed to bulking out with filler sequences – ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ feels very streamlined come the credits close. This style is completely befitting to the plot line of the movie, with the romantic side of the story very much different to others that have come before.
Shot with some brilliant cinematography, the locations that are used within the film are vibrantly brought to the attention of the audience. Shot to its strengths, and carrying a rather quirky approach, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is a visual pleasure that is best viewed when opened to the idea of witnessing something completely different. With whimsical moments placed through decisions made by the filmmaking crew, the context of this film is surprising in places.
Narrated at intervals of the plot and using old fashioned narrative progresses – such as full screen maps, the film easily explains the situation of the characters to the audience, thus stopping any confusion from being caused. With these implemented into the narrative, the film has a sort of old fashioned feeling throughout. It with this and the previously mentioned Anderson style that ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ becomes its own identity.
Having a massive ensemble cast that includes; Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Jason Schwartzman, the film is acted out extremely well with regards to its supporting roles. This strength only supports the debutants in carrying the movie – which they do at all times, as well as establishing their own quality in matching the experienced actors standards in their own performances.
Random in places, the film does hold moments of comedy – but overall these take a back seat to the more meaningful messages that the film conveys to its audience. Overall the film deals with a mature romantic storyline – only as if told through the eyes of child. It is in this light that the film is able to grasp onto its characters, develop them and more importantly allow audience members to become attached. It is multi-layered in regards to the various plot points it holds, however the film is first and foremost Sam and Suzy’s tale – and therefore should be seen as such. Captivating and different, this film could easily be counted as one of the most unique filmic productions to have come out of the industry.
‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is not easily defined, it is a stylised – almost arty- approach to both romance and coming-off-age narratives. Wes Anderson has struck gold with his visual decisions, and as such the film is perfectly befitting the content. Simple yet effective, the film is endearing to watch and through excellent character definitions, attachment is easily garnered. Where other films over-complicate their story-lines, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is refreshing in regards its mannerisms of relaying its plot in a simple, slow and sweet way.
Plot and Storyline – 3
Acting – 4
Direction – 4
Special Effects – 3
Overall – B