Moonrise Kingdom

I will admit that I usually do not care for the movies of director Wes Anderson.  I liked his first movie “Bottle Rocket” (1996), but the others, at least those that I have seen, are too self conscious and quirky for my tastes.  The effect of all this is that, at an Anderson movie, I feel as if there is a joke that everyone in the theatre is in on, except for me.  So I am glad to report that I did in fact enjoy his latest effort, “Moonrise Kingdom.”  While I was not always sure at what Anderson was getting, and maybe that is part of the fun, the bottom line here was that I did like the story. Be warned though, “Moonrise Kingdom” is quirky and deadpan and may not be for everyone. In fact everything in the film seems to come back to this, for lack of a better term, “deadpan” aesthetic. 

The sets, art direction and costumes are visually striking yet simultaneously as deadpan as the story and characters. The production direction (Adam Stockhausen), art direction (Gerald Sullivan) set decoration (Kris Moran) set design and costume design (Kasia Walicka-Maimone) of “Moonrise Kingdom” are all beautifully evocative of the film’s 1960’s time period.  At the same time though these elements are also pushed to the point where they become a heightened reality, perhaps nostalgia, but also to the degree where they become a bit of a spoof.  I was never completely sure if Anderson was making fun of the time period or remembering it fondly.  All of this is aided by Anderson’s use of elaborate long takes, split screens and the device of having an appropriately deadpan narrator, played by Bob Balaban (the king of deadpan), who, as they say in theatre, breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience directly.  Breaking the fourth wall does not always work well in a movie, but it sure does here.

The story of “Moonrise Kingdom” is about two kids, around age 13, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who are unhappy with their lots in life, not an infrequent occurrence at that age .  Sam is an orphan and Suzy has growing pains and, well, just does not like her oddball parents.  Who can blame her?  Suzy’s wacky folks are wonderfully played by eccentric, deadpan specialist, and Wes Anderson regular, Bill Murray, with the mother played by Frances McDormand.  Sam is a member of a Khaki Scouts camp, obviously a spoof of the Boy Scouts.  All the action takes place in and around the camp, in summer. Scout Master Ward, an appropriately “spit and polish” Edward Norton, local cop Captain Ward, a nebbishy Bruce Willis and various scouts are in hot pursuit of the run away couple.

For me the story was about youthful abandon and naivety.  I mean, where are Sam and Suzy really going to go?  They’re not going to live their lives in the wilderness.  Eventually they are going to have to come back but they have not thought this far ahead and this is what makes their adventure all the more appealing.

So, “nice going” to co-writer (along with Roman Coppola) and director Anderson.  He has made a quirky, surreal and visually appealing film with a very game cast.

Moonrise Kingdom, Director Wes Anderson, 2012,

Focus Features, 94 minutes, rated PG-13


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 5, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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