I think this might be the darkest film Wes Anderson has made to date, and is not afraid to show you everything that is going on with the characters. This is very refreshing, for most everything nowadays seems to have been polarized with how far to go - you either have a film that hits a PG/PG-13 rating and dumbs itself down (in a sense) to fit a more generic mainstream audience, or a film that hits an 18A/R rating and goes for broke trying to take every reasonable opportunity to show nudity and swear (examples of this: Transformers/Battleship, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/Shame). Here is a film that goes a solid half an hour without any real causes for concern, and (without trying to spoil anything) enters a brief scene that turns violent, and it takes really the audience by surprise.
If you are unaware of the story, Moonrise Kingdom follows Sam and Suzy, two twelve-year-olds who fall in love and decide to run away together. The couple (played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) decide on a beachfront where they will live out the rest of their days, using the Khaki Scout skills that Sam has been trained with, and staying entertained with the variety of records and fantasy novels Suzy has brought along. Their disappearance causes a fleet of interesting secondary characters to surface as they search for the missing children.
I really wish I had more time with the rest of the interesting characters the film has. This isn’t to say the leads were not up to par, they were fantastic, but so was everyone else, which includes a line-up of Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Murray. Everyone does a great job, but I have to say I wish I could see more of Willis as Police Captain Sharp. He really puts something special into this role, as a simple man who is becoming lonelier as time goes on.
Take any frame from this film and you will find Anderson’s fingerprints all over it. As his first period piece, he does a beautiful job remaking the 60’s, and you really get the vibe of the times, even subtle things like how everyone is smoking a cigarette really paint a picture of the 1965. My biggest issue with the film is its cinematography. I liked the style, and the signature Wes Anderson framings, but it was as if every shot was too perfect (if that makes any sense). The camera placement for this film is so laid on so thick in its presentation, it become almost distracting. Shot one - static camera centered on character, neatly placed symmetrical background; shot two - static camera centered on character, close-up, staring directly into lens; shot three - quirky item on wall, perfectly centered, quick pan to character staring at wall, perfectly centered; repeat. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great, but there is so much of it that it can almost put you out of the story. The very few shots that are shot without a tripod are a relief to see, and become a little more powerful because of how rare they are.
Overall, I really did enjoy the film. It is a great story of growing up and trying to be independent. Anderson knows how to make a good movie and fill it with characters that you love to watch. I am looking forward to seeing Moonrise Kingdom again, another great thing that Wes Anderson movies do, have repeated viewing value!