Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward and Bruce Willis
‘WES ANDERSON’ has two definitions: a). the name of writer-director Wes Anderson (1969 -) and b). an aesthetic and/or narrative style, that is distinct in its eccentricity, humor, and charm – as seen in, but not limited to, Wes Anderson films.
With or without the dictionary reference, critics have been praising and criticizing Wes Anderson’s seventh feature film, Moonrise Kingdom, as very ‘Wes Anderson.’ Some audiences gravitate towards Anderson, others are disillusioned or simply not buying it. But even if we were to put aside the kookiness, the detail-saturated visual style, and Bill Murray, Moonrise Kingdom tells a simple and modest story that connects with its audience through engaging characters and a strong narrative structure that captures the fantastical elements of adventure, love, and pre-teen innocence.
Set in 1965 on a fictional island called New Penzance, Sam (Gilman) and Suzy (Hayward) meet one summer and immediately become pen pals. As the two lay themselves bare on ink and paper (in literal terms, Sam sends Suzy a watercolor nude), their love for each other make it impossible for the two outsiders to remain apart. And so, the lovers agree to meet, escape, and rely on Sam’s camping skills to see them through. While a search team headed by Captain Sharp (Willis) and Scout Master Ward (Norton) go in search of the two fugitives, it is only a matter of time before Social Services (Swinton) comes to take Sam away after discovering he is an orphan with a bad track record in his behavior.
While Moonrise Kingdom gives us plenty to look at in terms of intricate details in color, costume, and both natural and doll-like interiors, it is the film’s binocular-zoomed vision of childhood nostalgia and the underlying sadness of adulthood that ultimately deserves the highest praise. As we come to see the lonely battles and desires of the adults concerned over Sam and Suzy’s welfare, we develop an appreciation of Sam and Suzy’s child-like bravery, their spirit of fun (captured so effortlessly and beautifully in a dance on the beach), and their adamant belief in true love.
Wrapped in uncompromising magic and wit, Anderson delivers a film that is bold in its visual orchestration, and yet, gentle in its message and mood. Moonrise Kingdom not only frees Anderson’s imagination into the new territory of a more structured plot (compared to his earlier works), but also unleashes the young talents of Gilman and Hayward as they radiate screen presence and likeability. Yes, Moonrise Kingdom is very ‘Wes Anderson.’ And for this particular film, that is a very wonderful thing.