Review – Moonrise Kingdom

So I got back in England yesterday at 10.00am and went to bed later on having been awake for 36 hours. After a swift awakening at 5am I decided that, in a state of jet-lag, it would be wise and relaxing to go and… SEE A FILM! So off I went to the Prince Charles Cinema and watched Moonrise Kingdom. Here’s my  brief review, which doesn’t quite express just how good it is.

Review – Moonrise Kingdom

2012, 94 mins, 12A, Dir. Wes Anderson, starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Francis McDormand, Tilda Swinton

Moonrise Kingdom

I must confess to having watched only one Wes Anderson film before I came across Moonrise Kingdom. I thought Fantastic Mr. Fox, his only animated feature, was Americanised and not as witty as the Dahl children’s book. After seeing his latest film, however, I might just have to purchase his entire back catalogue.

Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most fun films of the year. It tells the story of two young outcasts who, after falling in love, run away from town on an island off the coast of New England. This causes mass panic and a search-party is commissioned just days before a great storm. 

Even for an Anderson newbie, the director’s style is instantly noticeable. His emphasis on quickly panning from one scene of action to the next propels the film forward with effervescent energy. Anderson is also very precise in his framing. Not a single shot is wasted as our two plucky protagonists journey through the forest, and a strange man with glasses and a green hat explains to the audience where we are and at what time at the beginning of the film.

His name is ‘Narrator’.

But it’s not just the cinematography that catches your attention. It’s a hilarious film, both in terms of its scripted jokes and general quirkiness. The fact that a lot of it takes place in the world of 12-year-olds allows it to do things that would seem out of place elsewhere; Suzy, the more disturbed member of the central couple, stabs one of the pursuing scouts with ‘lefty scissors’, which are vengefully referred to later on. The wittiness of the script and the craziness of the scenarios that play out are served well by the sumptuous visuals.

Credit must be given for the acting. While the ‘name actors’ (and there are plenty of them) surprise the audience each in turn, the real praise goes to Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both of whom have never been in a film before. Their central roles aren’t easy but they adapt confidently to the strangeness of it all, and contribute to some of the best gags. They give the film its heart and are very easy to root for; we follow their journey truly hoping that they will make it.

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as Suzy and Sam.

It’s a very nostalgic film, set in the 1960s, with record players and the like, but also in its youthful sense of adventure that is absent so much today. Anderson uses this nostalgia to great effect, perhaps connecting with some members of the audience through memories of childhood and young love. It’s cartoonish and, at times, surreal (especially the ridiculously tall tree-house glimpsed in the trailer), but ultimately it’s very touching in this way.

The director’s idiosyncratic style may alienate some cinemagoers, but for most, Moonrise Kingdom is a well-acted, funny and engaging film which has made me salivate for more of Anderson’s work. 

9 out of 10