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Grab Bag Review: Take a Pleasant Journey to ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

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Wes Anderson hits another bullseye with Moonrise Kingdom. Fitting perfectly into the director’s oeuvre (yeah, I would call Anderson’s filmography an oeuvre because he is one of those classic cinephile auteurs) the film fulfilled all my expectations for a well-crafted cinematic escape. Certainly Anderson has a strong directorial style that you either love or hate.  If you have enjoyed any Anderson films you will probably enjoy a trip back to summer camp in Moonrise Kingdom.

Precocious is the defining characteristic of Wes Anderson’s child protagonists.  Sam Sandusky is a runaway Khaki Scout, escaping from his summer camp to meet up with his pen pal. Sam is an expert scout and all around intelligent and charming kid. His counterpart of Suzy Bishop is charmingly hip and loves reading fantasy books (the book covers and excerpts are perfectly designed).  They are overly cutesy at times but the script and acting still won me over.

Moonrise Kingdom bird costumes

Recurring themes throughout Anderson’s work continue here. Moody girls with eye make up, “emotionally disturbed” youth, families on the verge of collapse, quirky minor characters. His retro style is in full force especially since Moonrise Kingom takes place completely in the early 1960s.  Middle school kids’ books, French Pop records, wacky interior decor, colorful costumes, maps, and of course killer obscure pop music mixed with a fabulous string filled original score combine to make for some stunning art direction. It’s all to serve a heart warming childhood love story with the prerequisite weird verve of Wes Anderson’s colloquial characters.  He’s Mr. Mise-en-Scene and each shot is completely crafted down to the inch; it’s really a visual pleasure. No scene, no line of dialogue, and no shoe lace hasn’t been specifically tailored to fit to overall vision. Moonrise Kingdom is also beautifully shot in lots of outdoor woodsy New England long shots.Moonrise Kingdom Ed Norton Khaki Scouts

The story is sweet and funny even when it surprisingly grazes topics Hollywood usually completely avoids (i.e. childhood sexuality).  The two young ones are  like French New Wave outsiders; looking for danger and romantic adventure. They are brutally honest with each other and fight the obstacles to their love like teenagers rather than preteens.

moonrise kingdom kids

Moonrise Kingdom takes the #3 spot in my personal ranking of Wes Anderson films: Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, Darjeeling Limited ,The  Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr Fox, Bottle Rocket. I highly recommend it as an odd but light date film or for Wes Anderson fans. My only compliant is that Bill Murray’s role was a bit shallow and didn’t get to go past the classic restrictive father role. Bruce Willis and Tilda Swinton (both new to Anderson’s roll call) did a fine job but the real spotlight was on the kid actors and the fabulous job they did.  Ed Norton was great, Jason Swartzman and Bob Balaban were hilarious too.

Moonrise Kingdom wedding


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About the author

Joe Martinez

NERD! Documentary enthusiast. Independent and foreign cinema and historic theater booster. UC Santa Barbara Film Studies graduate. Homebase in Portland, Oregon. Top 10 Films (of this moment) 1. City of Lost Children 2. Black Cat, White Cat 3. Rivers and Tides 4. Sans Soliel 5. Stop Making Sense 6. Big Lebowski 7. Brick 8. 8 1/2 9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 10. Waking Life

  • Michael Cantrell

    This was one of Wes Anderson’s films that I had to sleep on after viewing.  I liked it a lot, don’t get me wrong.  But, there were some pacing issues that had me starting to grab for my watch (or cell phone).  This were a little slow at times, literally.  Anderson has a fantastic eye and each scene is crafted so well.  Typical dolly shots, pans and close ups.  Edward Norton was fantastic.  I agree that Bill Murray didn’t get as much from this role as previous roles, but did an excellent job.  I wasn’t completely sold on the main boy character and his acting.  The girl was great.  Even though Doug Benson told everyone to go into this movie with the idea that she was a young Lana Del Rey.  Schwartzman steals the show with one small performance.  I’m sure it will continue to grow on me.  My favorite films of Anderson are similar to yours, except I would switch Darjeeling and Mr. Fox on my list.  Excellent review, glad I got a chance to see this in the theater.  

    • R. LOREN

      I completely agree with your review. Bullseye it is. In fact, I would say where most directors would show weakness at this point of their careers, this may be one of Wes Anderson’s strongest films to date. Above all, the attention to detail in this film is so utterly complex that I could never in my life think on the level he does when preparing a creative work. And the story was magical. THIS captured the spirit of stuff like Goonies whereas films like Super 8 that are hyped as such fall short. Magical is the word. Rich

    • Joe

      Dude that little boy can dance! I wasn’t sold on him until he did his dance and talked about wetting the bed.