Today: February 23, 2024

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson has made his movie as only he can.


Wes Anderson is
unusual in Hollywood law. A
writer-director with such a unique sense of visuals, humour and narrative, you
could pick one of his films from a mile away. He may not be to everyone’s taste, some will argue his style
and characters are too quirky-come-twee, but his films capture the
imagination. Whether it be the
dulcet narration of Alex Baldwin in The Royal Tennebaums, the kitsch
effects of The Life Aquatic, the
eccentric stop-motion of The Fantastic
Mr. Fox,
Anderson’s films are unmistakably his. Moonrise Kingdom
is arguably his most intimate and ‘Andersonian’ creation to date.


Set in 1965, Sam
(Jared Gilman) is an orphan
struggling to get on with both his foster family and his Khaki Scouts Of North
America troupe. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is a withdrawn girl who
struggles to make friends, preferring to withdraw into pulp sci-fi books where
the protagonist has ‘powers’. When
they meet at a church play it is love at first sight. Over the course of time they write to each other and hatch a
plan to runaway. However, once they have made their escape Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) realises Sam is gone and
launches a search party enlisting the help of local cop Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Francis McDormand). With a storm closing in on the island
the race is on to find Sam and Suzy.
The problem is they don’t want to be found.


Anderson may not
have directed a live-action film since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, but his influence is obvious in films like Submarine and Son Of Rambow, so it seems apt that Anderson should return to the
coming of age shenanigans of Rushmore. While the fatal flaw of his last
outing, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, was that it was a kids film geared for adults,
Moonrise Kingdom is a film about kids aimed at adults who both yearn for their
youth and understand the follies of growing old. The children of the film display infinitely more affection
for each other than any of the adult characters who seem to have become both
jaded and withdrawn with age.
Thankfully the same is not true of Anderson who seems to be on more
jovial form than ever. Every scene
is lightly peppered with humourous moments; even the death of a faithful dog,
by a misguided Scout arrow, manages to be both sad and funny at the same


For fans of
Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom is a retro delight. Utilising his 70s style of shooting he guides us through
this reality, which is both familiar and alien, with nostalgic charm. His colour pallet is often bright but
muted, all dampened greens and yellows, while his shooting technique is
appropriately of a by-gone era.
Where most directors cut around a scene or track in, Anderson chooses to
pan or zoom. It’s something he’s done
on all his films to date but with the setting here being 1965, it has never
felt so appropriate.


Crucial to
anything Anderson does are the performances on offer. Over the years he has assembled a troupe of actors who
understand the importance of pregnant pauses to his scattergun dialogue. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman both return with all too familiar Anderson
ticks. Bruce Willis, normally most
at home in a grubby white vest and firing a gun, is an understated joy. His grumpy old man routine here
bringing a sense of melancholic glee to the film. McDormand is on fine form but feels somewhat underused,
while Edward Norton brings a naïve zip and comical gawp to his Scout


However, the
stand-outs are newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Both debutant actors, Gilman is a
quintessential Anderson creation.
With glasses two sizes too big and an adult sensibility behind his
cherub innocence he is an actor who should received accolades akin to
Submarine’s Craig Roberts. Hayward meanwhile treads that fine
balance of being both youthful and innocent with just enough sexual energy to
ignite Sam’s loins. She’s an
outsider you cannot help but fall for.
Expect to see both of these talents go on to bigger things.


Moonrise Kingdom
should come however with one very large caveat. If you are not a fan of Wes Anderson’s ways this will not
convert you. If anything it will
cement your opinion of his work.
For others it is a quaint picture book delight. Theatrical, funny and warm, Moonrise
Kingdom earns its scout badges with honour.


Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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