Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

3.25 Mile Outlet.
Moonrise Kingdom
2012, Directed by Wes Anderson.
Written 13/4/13

Wes Anderson is a director that I've not really experienced before, but his 2012 piece Moonrise Kingdom was an experience that I just had to tell you about. The film is one with a highly charged aesthetic, full of jump-cuts and shots meant to portray a sense of the make-believe, or the whimsical. Through this aesthetic, draped further with a soundtrack stuffed with French New-wave and light opera, Anderson delivers a script that examines all manners of human existence, from the innocence of young love to the cynicism of middle-age. It throws out a number of standard children's comedy tropes and then casts them in a delightfully darker light. Don't be fooled by Moonrise Kingdom's whimsey - there is something dark and deranged hiding behind it all, and that's what makes it all worthwhile.
      It's 1965. Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Heyward) are both maladjusted children living in uncomfortable circumstances on the fictional New England island of New Penzanzce; Sam as an orphan permenantly drafted into the Scouts (led by Ed Norton's Randy Ward) and Suzy as a stressed-out teen living with highly dysfunctional parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand). The search for the two children is led by Island Police chief Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), who soon grows to realise that his own life has been robbed of the innocence and drive that the two children, despite their personal problems, do possess. As the two children attempt to escape both their carers and the authorities, everyone involved is forced to re-evaluate their life-choices and question whether they did the right thing.
     The film's New England aesthetic, filled with forests, lakes and coves, contributes towards a thematic turn towards the fairy-tale. The film's quiet genius is that it manages to mingle the simplistic morality of the two children ("We're in love; we just want to be together") with the more muddy waters of Laura's infidelity and abusive nature towards her husband (who has two black eyes by the end of the film - ironic, considering some of the claims made against Bill Murray in real life.) There's a deliberate ambiguity as to which is to be prefered - the children's relationship almost mocks the later, with easily-resolved petty arguments and a faux marriage ceremony, while on the other side Bill Murray and Bruce Willis' characters both express regret at their current circumstances and have been driven to their pessimism by years of bad decisions.
Suzy and Sam run away from their troubles, and fall in love.
     Quite interesting, I find, is the film's pacing. One of the reasons that I think the characterisations work so well is due to the relaxed introduction into the story in the first half, where we explore the relationships between our characters to the full extent that we can. As an ensemble it's very well developped, with a lot of attention going into subconscious actions as well as just the dialogue, which is often used to derive most of the film's quirky humour. I definitely prefer that first part to the eventual climax and the blissfully happy ending, but that second half does clarifiy a lot of the first half's ideas and ultimately gives us some of the film's most memorable moments.
     Moonrise Kingdom was adored by critics but mostly ignored by the General Public, which is a damn shame. It's a film that mixes cerebrality and a thorough examination of human happiness with quirky direction and diagogue that is on its own heartwarmingly written. If Wes Anderson's technique and his tacit acknoweldgement of the medium gets on your goat, then I suppose you might have some problem here, but otherwise this is a hidden gem amongst 2012's film arsenal.


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