Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Just enough dysfunction to be interesting; just enough precociousness to be endearing; just enough fairy story to be completely enjoyable. Such was the recipe for Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s (Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited) new film.

It’s 1964, and Suzy and Sam, two serious, intelligent, square-peg 12-year-olds, have gone missing on a New England island called New Penzance, having run away from their unhappy lives in order to get married. Suzy, the daughter of two estranged, dysphoric lawyers escapes into the jungle-like recesses of the island with foster child Sam, who gathers a bunch of camping supplies and deserts his fellow Khaki Scouts to make a life in the wild with his new lady.

Understandably, this causes the scoutmaster (Edward Norton) and the girl’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) a great deal of panic, and the search is on. Led by the bumbling and gentle-spirited police chief Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis, in a refreshing departure from his standard tough-guy roles), they all set out to find the kids.

As is Anderson’s signature style, the characters are all slightly…how do you say…off. Quirky. Not quite in control of their situations, but likable enough for you to want them to be. The child actors are perfect: deadpan and serious and totally effective — yet entertaining, in a Macaulay Culkin/Home Alone kind of way. And as my awesome fiend and Finkite Tom Hanks pointed out, no words are wasted. (We agreed the same about Aaron Sorkin, by the way.) Every line means something; there are no fillers.

This wasn’t a silly story with a happy ending. This was a silly story with a happy ending where you walk out of the theater just a bit ennobled, and maybe a little nostalgic for your own private reasons. It was OK that Suzy’s parents were still struggling in their marriage, or that we really don’t know what happened with Captain Stark’s previous unrequited love relationship. In other words, nothing about the ending — while it was satisfying and basically hopeful — smacked of contrived, predictable Hollywood drivel. While the characters were not well-rounded (not by a longshot), they were well-portrayed. That alone earns it another half a cheese.

Of course, the best part of the afternoon was picking TH’s awesome cinematic brain about filmmaking and what he looks for in a movie. Not only is seeing films with him fun, it’s educational. I always learn something new after talking with him.

So. First off, if you’re a Wes Anderson fan, this will be an instant favorite. If you’re not, or if you have little patience for not-quite-balanced people trying to deal with life in outrageous situations, you may want to take a pass. I’m somewhere in the middle, and I loved it. And Bill Murray was great.

On the Rat-O-Meter scale of five cheeses, I give Moonrise Kingdom:

Images: Focus Features

4 thoughts on “Review: Moonrise Kingdom

  1. Tom Hanks

    Awesome review Fink! It was great to finally get to see this with you yesterday.

    I agree with what you say and I think if I gave out cheeses my score would be about the same.

    Yesterday we were talking a lot about whether or not the stylized look of the movie, the directing, and the acting may have hinted at some deeper meaning..which I think stylization makes you want to do. “Are the rigid, precise shots that move about the house a comment on the state of the characters lives?” Idk…the more I think about it the more I think that it really is not that deep…that the characters, like you said…are not well rounded or very figured out. Its just an enjoyable yarn, well told, set in a lush environment. I don’t think that necessarily makes it a lesser thing. And sometimes maybe characters that are not completely colored in allows the audience to project their own ideas about them…like what may have made Bruce Willis the way he is, and Ed Norton etc. Those two were actually my favorite performances.

    Sorry I’m rambling! Good movie..but lacking a cheese as you say.

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      “…characters that are not completely colored in…”

      Well said! To me, that *can* be a slippery slope for directors/writers. How much do you give away, and how much do you keep inside the vest so the audience can come to its own conclusion?

      That’s been a topic of discussion between the Thriller and me on occasion. People, by-and-large, don’t want to work for a story anymore. They don’t want to connect dots and develop possible backstories, or strive to know a character. We’ve been desensitized in many ways, in my opinion, by astonishing special effects in movies to the point where if it doesn’t sparkle or shoot or otherwise amaze, we’re bored.

      Now that’s a really over-generalized statement, I know. But you see my point — there’s just very little patience in the American audience nowadays. Nuance is underappreciated, z’all I’m sayin’. And that nuance is what I appreciated about the film.

      It was fabulous to see you again and yap over over-priced espresso. :P We’re on for Hyde Park on Hudson, right?? Oh, and the release date is no mistake:

      D’cemba seventh, nineteen fawty-one


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