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Moonrise Kingdom: Movie Review

Submitted by on June 2, 2012 – 9:27 amNo Comment
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I’m going to break with just about every film critic in the country here and say I didn’t like this film that much. And I’m normally a huge fan of director Wes Anderson and all his glorious idiosyncrasies. But Moonrise Kingdom leans too heavily on the alienation effects and visual signatures that have made Anderson a star, crowding out almost any room for real emotion.

The film follows Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two troubled (and in a very Andersonian way, unbelievably precocious) pre-teens on a New England island in 1965. They run away together as a hurricane approaches. The adults who pursue them turn out to be more damaged than the youths.

Unfortunately, much of the film must be carried by the two young leads. They give a fine effort, but are largely unable to use the director’s deadpan style to much dramatic effect. The older actors, including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, and a subtly ominous Bob Balaban, all deliver the dry dialogue without sacrificing emotional authenticity (of course, they have more experience and less screen time). In a film about the very serious, epic time of childhood, we are left with only a few scenes that capture that essence: Sam and Suzy lashing out at the world around them; their brief and heartbreaking misunderstandings with each other; and a “Khaki Scout” raging at his disloyal comrades for their cowardice, to name a few.

Worse, the distance this creates between the audience and the main characters takes away the good will that can often gloss over the line between Anderson’s planned artificiality and just being forced. Without really believing in the bond between the two, the exploration of their burgeoning sexuality seemed somewhat unnecessary at parts and kinda creepy; and plot holes and continuity problems bothered me more than they would have otherwise.

Of course, as with any Anderson film, this is still plenty to keep your attention. Every shot is gorgeously framed, the colors are eye popping on 16mm film, the sets and costumes are meticulously campy and accurate, and the soundtrack (ranging from Benjamin Britten to Hank Williams to Alexandre Deslpat‘s techno-influenced fugue) is expressive and striking.

Did you see Moonrise Kingdom? What did you think?

 

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