Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban and Harvey Keitel
Release Date: May 16, 2012
French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, a powerful influence in cinema and pop culture from the 1960s onward thanks to his radical films, depicted in some of his films the need for the adolescent or youth to maintain their autonomy in the process of society attempting to crush it and mold it for their own purposes. This is pure literary, but in cinema the right director can demonstrate explicitly the harsh tendencies of society.
In his newest film, Moonrise Kingdom, director Wes Anderson, with a script he co-wrote with Roman Coppola, is approaching that topic Godard had always wrestled with, and still is today. It is not easy to do, but with Anderson’s whimsy and vigorous style of direction, unerring in its constant infatuation with capturing perfection, we are able to witness two adolescents restlessly in love in a perfectly concocted world endure an environment that is stifling and stunting their growth.
A lonely and densely populated island is where the film takes place. It is called New Penzance, a most amiable island probably located off the coast of New England. The year is 1965, as we are told by the film’s omniscient narrator (played by Bob Balaban whose attire evokes that of Steven Zissou’s), and a tempest is slated to strike the island in three days.
Sam and Suzy (played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) are the only ones on the fictitious island that have the undiminished hope of preserving their autonomy. They meet during a play in a dressing room where Suzy is dressed as a raven, hand bandaged and all after striking a mirror because she was upset with herself. This initial and peculiar meeting between the two is so irresistible that they decide to run away with one another, leaving their confined world in search for a utopia. Everyone else on the island seems to have forsaken hope long ago, and the only way the masses know how to ignore such a bleak fact is to be forever ingrained in the mundane that New Penzance harbors.
Sam, who’s an orphan, busies himself by being a member of Camp Ivanhoe, where all the boy scouts’ tents are impeccably kept and their uniforms are equally impressive in their neatness. The camp is run by scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton), who is adamant about running the camp in a military fashion, always sending out orders and worrying about each kid as of it were his own. When Sam discreetly flees from the camp one day (he’s such a good lad that he even leaves a note), Scoutmaster Ward is demoralized and immediately phones Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the island’s only cop.
The opening shots of the film take us inside a picturesque home that seems to be the island’s only family. A beautiful dolly shot examines each and every room and nook, sometimes catching the father (Bill Murray) reading the newspaper or the mother (Frances McDormand) speaking into a megaphone alerting her three sons and her daughter Suzy that dinner is now ready. Suzy craves an existence away from her home. She is probably invariably suffering from the same daily routine every single day. Aside from this, she also discovered a book, Coping With the Very Troubled Child, that her parents have been reading. It’s time for her to be liberated.
There is an urge to emerge from the everyday triviality in every one of the characters, but most suppress such notions. Captain Sharp is a miserable existence, vulnerable, broken, and confused, looking for affection in all the wrong places; Scoutmaster Ward ceaselessly, almost piously, records his daily pessimistic thoughts, fears, and worries of days previous during the depths of the night; and Murray’s character is struggling to accept that his marriage is disintegrating. The two youths, though, come together and attempt to escape their uptight worlds. The adults then frantically begin a search party for the two, bringing everyone involved, including a Social Service woman (Tilda Swinton) and two other scouts (Jason Schwarztman and Harvey Keitel) from a different camp.
All of Wes Anderson’s films are aesthetically pleasing, furnishing each one, from Bottle Rocket to Moonrise, with the utmost precision. They’re impeccable worlds that harbor intense confusion; perfect worlds that once you peer deeply into them you see the seething turmoil boiling beneath the surface. They seem to emerge from a world that only emanates perfection, a scary and disturbing exactness that’s akin to Stanley Kubrick’s meticulousness. And it is this perfection that happens to incite Anderson’s characters to experience existential dread.
What is most palpable in the works of Anderson is the seemingly innocent charm that is extremely widespread and epidemic. He works with a bulk of brightly colored items from the every day world. Nostalgic items such as picnic baskets, record players, and suitcases are used fetishistically to sedate his audience, alluring us into his strenuously and rigorously fashioned world only to clobber us with wry, macabre humor and even a jolt of unanticipated bloody violence. This clashing of aesthetic pleasantness with macabre humor is accentuated in all of Anderson’s films, especially in Moonrise, where there is an exemplary fusion of aesthetic and macabre power. Once we perceive this in Moonrise Kingdom (it is blatantly evident) we are encouraged, even against our will, to accept it with alacrity despite how esoteric his world can be and how abundantly full of idiosyncrasies his world can have.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5.