Giovanni's Movie Review: MOONRISE KINGDOM

Few filmmakers have as distinct an aesthetic as director Wes Anderson. In fact, within a minute of his latest film Moonrise Kingdom it becomes unmistakably clear that this is a work of the auteur. This charming comedy is stuffed with his signatures, from his yellow color schemes to his deadpan humor. If you’re the kind of person who’s generally fond his style to be obnoxious, be warned: this is not the Anderson film that’s going to convert you into a fan.

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That’s not to say it isn’t good, as this particular story makes for one of the director’s most entertaining projects. Set in the 1960’s, the film tells the story of Sam (Jared Gilman), a 12-year-old boy who resigns from his boy scout troop and runs away into the woods with his young love Suzy (Kara Hayward). Everyone in the small New England town forms a rescue party, including the bachelor police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Sam’s scout master (Edward Norton), and Suzy’s feuding parents (Bill Muray and Frances McDormand). It would be easy for Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola to play off the children’s affection for one another as silly and cute, but instead they create a genuine connection between the two based off their mutual outcast status in society. They are two pariahs who just want to live free from judgment in their own private paradise.

That sentiment comes off so endearingly thanks to the leads, both of whom are newcomers to acting. Gilman and Hayward flawlessly adapt to the director’s style while making it even more playful than usual. It has the same energy as an early Jean-Luc Godard film at times, with the actors looking like spitting images of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. They’re as cute and awkward as you’d expect 12-year-old lovers to be, but they’re also quite cool, as they dance around an empty beach to Francoise Hardy records.

While most of the plot centers around the two it’s ultimately an ensemble story. And that’s where the film’s biggest flaws appear. Early on, it does a great job introducing the multitude of characters, all performed with great comedic knack and emotional subtlety. Anderson and Coppola start building promising arcs that seem to move towards satisfying conclusions. But as the second half begins, the script nearly drops these stories entirely, failing to develop much outside of Sam and Suzy’s tale. It’s admittedly disappointing, as Anderson seems to trade characters in for wild plot points and somewhat self-indulgent visuals effects. It’s still a fun journey, but one that feels lighter and more unfulfilling than it initially leads on.

With a meatier script, Moonrise Kingdom could possibly have been one of Anderson’s finest works. Instead, it’s a pleasant summer getaway during a time where cinemas are dominated by big explosions, and that’s by no means a bad thing. It’s a wonderful and warmhearted film and much like summer itself, you’ll wish the end didn’t have to come so soon.

3.5 Stars

Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, MOONRISE KINGDOM tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore -- and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in more ways than anyone can handle. Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff. Edward Norton is a Khaki Scout troop leader. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the young girl's parents. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the boy and girl.

Moonrise Kingdom is written and directed by Wes Anderson and stars Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Focus Features has scheduled the film for theatrical release on May 25th, 2012.