Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward and Bruce Willis
Captain Sharp: Even smart kids stick their fingers in electrical sockets. It takes time to figure things out.
Wes Anderson is an auteur, through and through. His style is unmistakable – from the deliberate cinematography, wide angled and colourful, to the soundtrack, usually folksy and reasonably obscure. He even works with the same actors on a frequent basis (Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, most notably), which only further strengthens the definition of the Wes Anderson universe. His latest, MOONRISE KINGDOM, employs all of these familiar elements but something is missing this time. Aside from Owen Wilson (who has been in every single Anderson film except this one), what is most noticeably absent in MOONRISE KINGDOM, is a point. I mean, there is one; it just hardly seems worth all the trouble.
Working with his regular writing partner, Roman Coppola, who last worked with Anderson on a favourite of mine, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, Anderson weaves yet another quirked out tapestry of a story. Perhaps Anderson’s previous foray into children’s film inspired him to continue trumpeting the youth voice as his two main protagonists here are both barely old enough to watch the majority of Anderson’s repertoire. Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both complete unknowns), fall for each other one night while he, having broken away from his scout troop while attending a church play about Noah’s Arc, stumbles upon her in her dressing room before her cue. There is an unspoken understanding that they are both outsiders – well, I assume there is anyway, otherwise I don’t know why else these two would gravitate towards each other – and they agree through correspondence that they should abandon their lives and live in the woods together. They both live on an island in the middle on nowhere and it’s 1965 so I guess that means this sort of arrangement is actually feasible. The kids do well with the morose, disaffected acting style Anderson pulls from all his actors but it sure is bleak to see future generations looking so hopelessly lost.
Aesthetically, Anderson never misses a beat. Every detail, and there are plenty of them, is tended to with great care. Sometimes, this leads to an absurdity that is both uproarious and insightful. At other times though, his films, despite the warmth in the colour tones themselves, can come across as quite cold. MOONRISE KINGDOM suffers from this. As the kids fight for their relationship, their parents and guardian types (the aforementioned Murray, as well as Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton) bumble around trying to find them and keep their own lives from falling apart. The most I took away from this is that parents should check themselves because their kids are watching them and subsequently learning how to live and love from them at all times. The killer cast does their best to maintain the intrigue and mood but the simplicity of the themes left me wondering if Anderson is running out of things to say. Fortunately, for now, he still knows how to make whatever little amount he has to say look awful pretty.