Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom- A Thoughtful and Heartfelt Young Love Story That is Complimented by Wes Anderson’s Stylish Presentation

It has been five years since French New Wave impressionist Wes Anderson has directed a project with real sets and actors considering his last project was the uniquely designed but unfulfilling animation film Fantastic Mr. Fox. Returning with fellow screenwriter Roman Coppola, who also contributed on Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, Wes stays true to his unusual blend of surrealism and mature themes this time centering around two troubled youths on an island off the coast of New England during the summer of 1965. Considering Anderson’s love for the auteurs of the French New Wave era of cinema, especially Truffaut, Melville, and Godard, it’s safe to say that the story of Moonrise Kingdom is a loose tribute to Jean Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, since both films have two misunderstood characters that seem to be running away from either society, family, or the basic routines and troubles in their lives. While the film contains the usual elements of a Wes Anderson film, including precisely intended dialogue and carefully designed sets, it deviates slightly in comedic tone this time creating more of a character tapestry that is more whimsical than it is humorous. But this shouldn’t be looked at as a negative trait, because it allows Coppola and Anderson to really emphasize the sweet nature of this coming of age story that has truly deep meanings for all our inner runaways. With the help of a talented cast, especially the impressive young actors, Wes Anderson utilizes his signature stylish camera movements, deadpan delivery, and intriguing character connections that make Moonrise Kingdom a delightful reminiscence of idealistic young love.

With a very brief running time and economical usage of dialogue, Moonrise Kingdom leaves nothing to waste either in story, character, or technical film work. The opening credits give you an insight to the life of Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) as the constantly moving camera captures each perfectly designed shot of the seemingly boring and impersonal lives of the Bishop family. Suzy is always somewhere in the shot with her binoculars as though she’s always looking beyond her current stagnant place. This incredibly ambitious opening showcases what we love about Wes Anderson’s films because he’s always able to tell us more through his visuals than he does with dialogue, which is an extremely difficult creative task. Whenever there is dialogue it is always used sparingly and is more often than not to the point, especially with the more mature than his years Sam (Jared Gilman). And there is no other filmmaker who can replicate the Wes Anderson style that has his set designs invoke character, his framing possesses depth either with character blocking or in action, and his specific camera movements are evocative. Anderson’s efficiency in storytelling via visuals is always complimented by the characters he creates and in Moonrise Kingdom they are especially flawed and adrift, whether it’s the lonely and sad Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) or the chain smoking Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). Each of these dry eccentrics that is typical of the Wes Anderson character canon are forced to come to terms with themselves after Suzy and Sam run away. While the world that is created in the film seems beyond our grasp, either in time (set in 1965) or character (desolate, lonely), the love story that brings all of the events together is marvelously sweet making the oddness of the film seem rather endearing. This is all typical Wes Anderson and so those unfamiliar with his stylish musings won’t find much to admire except for how the story seems so connected to us without really being connected with the specific world.

It would be a true shame if people begin to not appreciate the abnormal of movie experiences, though it seems that is the direction we’ve been heading in the past decade. Having a refreshing auteur of style such as Wes Anderson still makes going to the movies a magical place, where storytelling isn’t a convention but rather the expression of ideas, characters, and feelings. While Moonrise Kingdom isn’t necessarily as witty or humorous as Anderson’s previous work it is probably his most heartfelt and sweet. What is most impressive about Anderson’s latest is that it is truly efficient in pacing, character, dialogue, and visual choices. All of these elements are perfected by Anderson throughout Moonrise Kingdom, rivaling his first two brilliant films Rushmore and Bottle Rocket (though it still falls a bit short). Everything from Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful score to Robert Yeoman’s grainy cinematography bring to life a nostalgic story of misunderstood characters in love that is refreshing and sweet. Not everyone really gets Wes Anderson’s disconnected and surreal reactions from his characters but what they can understand is the thoughtful presentation and heartfelt connection the director has with his work.

Grade: A-

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