Magazine article Screen International

Moonrise Kingdom

Magazine article Screen International

Moonrise Kingdom

Article excerpt

Dir: Wes Anderson. US. 2012. 94mins

The enchanting sweetness of director Wes Anderson's 2009 foray into animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox, has been transplanted into his return to live-action filmmaking, Moonrise Kingdom, a delicate period love story whose slightness is mitigated by its deep feeling. Those who have complained that Anderson makes the exact same twee, precious, mannered deadpan comedy every time out will have plenty here to further their argument, but this bittersweet bauble so confidently goes about its business that it's difficult to deny that Anderson knows his milieu and how to dramatise it eloquently.

Anderson's new movie again demonstrates that the emotions are all there under the tightly controlled surface.

After serving as the opening film at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Moonrise Kingdom will be released May 25, and it seems safe to assume that it will cater to the exact same niche art-house crowds that previously embraced Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited. Boasting his starriest cast since The Royal Tenenbaums, this Focus Features offering probably shouldn't expect significant box office boost from the presence of Anderson newcomers Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, but its positioning as the prestige release of the long Memorial Day weekend could help its theatrical returns.

Moonrise Kingdom takes place on a small New England island as the summer of 1965 is drawing to a close. Two pre-teen misfits - orphan Sam (Jared Gilman) and troubled Suzy (Kara Hayward) - fall for one another and decide to run away, which sparks a pursuit from Sam's camp leader (Norton), the town sheriff (Bruce Willis) and Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).

A quick plot synopsis of Moonrise Kingdom will perhaps bring back memories of previous Anderson films, whether it's the precocious underage protagonist reminiscent of Rushmore or the family dysfunction that's been a central theme of all his work. The comparisons are obvious and inevitable, but if they do dull some of Moonrise Kingdom's novelty, it's also important to note how Anderson has refined and deepened his approach over time to allow for a more layered emotional resonance in his pictures.

Although the film has an impressive cast of indie-minded actors, Anderson puts most of Moonrise Kingdom's emotional weight on the shoulders of two relative unknowns. Initially there's a concern that Gilman and Hayward simply don't have enough presence to carry the story along, but soon it becomes apparent that, unlike Rushmore's hyper-articulate and competitive Max Fischer, these new characters are more withdrawn and introspective. Consequently, their bond is less about being soul mates than it is about a shared sense of being outcasts. Anderson and his co-writer Roman Coppola leave Sam and Suzy a bit underdeveloped, which robs them of some personality but at the same time makes the reveal of their darker impulses all the more shocking and unsettling.

Indeed, Moonrise Kingdom sails along beautifully when Anderson focuses on their courtship. Working with his long-time cinematographer Robert Yeoman, the director succeeds in turning young love into precisely the intense, transitory, impossibly idyllic sensation it can be in real life. Utilising the Rhode Island locations to good effect, Moonrise Kingdom is like a live-action storybook of open skies and empty terrain in which Sam and Suzy can run free, creating a new life away from the sadness of their previous existence. …

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