Moonrise Kingdom

On New Penzance, an island off the coast of New England, a couple of children fall in love in early September of 1965. They naturally make a pact to run away together which they then proceed to do. Upon learning of this, their respective guardians are thrown into a tailspin. These adults organize a search party to apprehend the pair of headstrong lovers and put a stop to their illicit love.

I’ve never experienced the 60s, lived in New England, wanted to run away from home or been in the scouts. Yet Wes Anderson makes me feel nostalgia for all of these things. Ok that last part actually isn’t true, I was a Boy Scout, but I didn’t really enjoy it.  Here he fashions a story that represents a bygone era that I longed to be a part of. He combines elements that recall the illustrations of Norman Rockwell and the musings of raconteur Jean Shepherd. Of course Anderson brings a slightly skewed bent that is wholly his own. Wes Anderson is an admittedly acquired taste. Not everyone seems to cozy up to the auteur’s whimsical conception of life. I on the other hand am an avowed disciple of his worldview. Apparently I’m not alone as this broke box office records for highest earnings per theater in its limited release. Ok, it’s a qualified achievement, but I’ll still acknowledge it.

Wes Anderson’s films are an exquisitely studied affair. The position an object or person holds within the frame is never up to chance. Every picture is a perfectly arranged tableau. Gaze upon the spectacle when our young hero unzips his tent after he is discovered to be with his sweetheart. The carefully placed assemblage of characters standing there is like a painting of Rockwellian precision. There’s humor in that, but there’s also a level of care that’s admirable as well. It imbues every scene with a joy rarely seen in the movies of today. At times it can verge on precious fussiness. But more often than not, it’s a beautiful display of cinematic purity.

Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s greatest work since Rushmore. Forget The Royal Tenenbaums (which is a great film and his biggest hit). This is a return to that live action high point. The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou were decent but where those focused on an adult disaffection with life, Moonrise Kingdom wisely celebrates what it means to be a child again. There’s an exciting mix of unabashed nostalgia, but without any hint of mawkishness. He strikes a precise balance that both romanticizes the impetuousness of youth, but with some delightfully caustic bite thrown in. Anderson’s films aren’t for everyone, but for those that truly dig his sensibilities it’s a rewarding journey into his fanciful version childhood.

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16 Responses to “Moonrise Kingdom”

  1. Whoa, I’ve never heard of this, even though it’s extremely recent. I’ll definitely add it to my list, since you gave it a perfect score and I see two Coppolas on the poster. Phenomenal review.

  2. …and no wonder I’ve never heard of it. Apparently, it premiered at le Festival de Cannes, which just ended. Too bad I don’t keep up with those. It looks like it’s also in limited release here in the USA. Did you see it at Cannes? If so, I’m JEALOUS.

    • Uh, I wish. It’s in limited release, but it goes wider in the coming weeks. Look for it.

      • Glad I don’t have to envy you now. :) I’ll certainly look for it! Hopefully it’ll still be in theaters come July, since I’ll be away June 17 through Independence Day. Otherwise I’ll have to catch it on DVD. :(

  3. You know, I was in the scouts. I made it to Webelo, but then I sort of forgot they existed.

    Aaaaaanyways, I’m stoked for this. I’m with you – an Anderson follower. I hold Like Aquatic in higher esteem than you, but I won’t hold that against you.

  4. Ahh, this is where you and I differ in tastes Mark. For the life of me I just can’t stand Wes Anderson films, I just find his characters and style terribly obnoxious. I realize that characters sometimes need to be obnoxious (that is, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an annoying character), but there’s something about Anderson characters that I just don’t like, maybe it’s their general precociousness. Honestly, he’s on my short list of directors I’d like to punch (along with Vincent Gallo), and I’m not a violent person!

    • Oh you’ve given me a wonderful idea: Top 10 directors I’d like to punch. Can I start with Michael Haneke? Although then I’d have to give him a hug right after. It’s kind of a love-hate thing for me.

      But back to Wes Anderson. I’ll admit he likes to feature “precocious” children, but I enjoy that and I don’t find his characters annoying – just kind of sarcastic. It’s hard to convince someone. You either get him or you don’t, I guess.

  5. Wow, 5 stars? That’s high praise. I trust your good taste so I am sure I’ll enjoy this a lot as well. Great review.

  6. martin250 Says:

    i thought the Royal Tenenbaums was entertaining in its style, though can remember little about the story other than being about an eccentric family. i will most probably see this one and the Life Aquatic.

  7. Probably one of my favorite movies so far. The dialogue, acting and quirkiness were all, grade A awesome! I realize I am a huge fan of Wes Anderson!

  8. I really did want to see this but sadly my local cinema decided notto show it. Now i want to see it even more!

  9. I just came back from seeing this about an hour ago upon your recommendation. I must say, Mark, my mind was blown. I haven’t seen anything else by Wes Anderson (but now I’m dying to), so I was even more thrilled by the experience. I’ll start writing in a few minutes. You said it perfectly.

    • So glad to hear that buddy. Thanks for taking my recommendation!

      • No problem! It culminated in one of my longest reviews yet, by far. 921 words, excluding the “bottom line”, the quote at the beginning, and the short credits in the beginning of the post. Definitely one I would buy when it hits home video. :D

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