You can call him pretentious, or you can call him a delight. Perhaps he is a bit of both. Wes Anderson, the beloved director of appealing offbeat films such as Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001),and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), applies a number of motifs in his work that make his films feel just a little bit fantastical, without having any actual elements of magic. This holds very true for his latest film Moonrise Kingdom which, in what should be a pleasure to his diehard fans, is unmistakably his in every manner.
Set in 1965, this charming comedy-drama is about two 12-year-old kids: an orphan named Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and a girl named Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). The two meet at a church performance and continue their friendship as pen pals. During this time, they fall in love and decide that they would elope when they are reunited a year later — which they do — leaving the whole town searching for them.
Of those trying to find the pair is the town sheriff Captain Sharp, who is played in a typically engaging performance by Bruce Willis. Also searching are Suzy’s dysfunctional parents, the two lawyers Walt (Billy Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand). Others looking for the runaway lovers are the ‘Khaki Scout’ group, of which Sam was a member, led by Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton), and the Social Services concerned for the orphan, led by actor Tilda Swinton.
Where Moonrise Kingdom succeeds is in its quirky characters who are led by their own emotions without a care for anything else in the word. In previous Anderson films, his characters were funny and quirky but sometimes a little too self-involved which, at times, came across as more annoying than endearing. Here, the character quirks work mainly because the main leads aren’t adults but children.
In typical Anderson fashion, Moonrise Kingdom is shot and edited simplistically and presented in a colour palate that noticeably prioritises a few select colours. The chosen colours happen to be an easy yellow, a cherry red, and a fresh green that give the film a relaxed visual appeal. The film is also paced deliberately, almost exaggeratedly, which is where Moonrise Kingdom at times comes close to feeling more ostentatious than it should. But while the film has plenty to offer, how much you actually like Moonrise Kingdom will depend upon how much you like Wes Anderson.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 1st, 2012.
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