Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom feels at its core almost like Let the Right One In – minus vampires and Sweden and as directed by Wes Anderson. It follows two socially outcast 12 year-olds in 1965 New England: Sam (Jared Gilman), a member of Khaki boy scouts, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), a troubled young girl with an occasional penchant for violence and stealing library books. The two lovers decide to run away together, prompting an island-wide search involving police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the Khaki Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) and Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand).
It has everything one can expect from a Wes Anderson film’s mise-en-scene: retro yellow/earth toned colour grading, centred shots, horizontal panning. It also includes trademark deadpan line delivery, 1960s music, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman – the only thing missing from the usual package is the Futura-titled font. The mise-en-scene works better in this film more so than any of Anderson’s previous films due to it being set in the 1960s (in his other works this felt more like a quirky stylistic future that was interesting but perhaps a little out of its time, feeling a little jarring on occasion). It really immerses one into the style of the 1960s through a child’s eyes, with a colour mix as bright as a crayon set. The cinematography – in particular, shot composition – is beautiful.
The costume design in the film is gorgeous, and particularly Suzy’s adorable pink shift dress and smoky bright blue eye make-up combined with her pout gave her character a real sense of sultry attitude – almost like a mini Mrs. Robinson.
The chemistry between Sam and Suzy, as with Oskar and Eli in Let the Right One In, is powerful and shows their development not only in the world of relationships but also through the rite of passage of childhood to adulthood, stuck in pre-teen limbo as Sam and Suzy yearn to be together but still have to be concerned with parents and family as they are clearly too young to leave home. And in both films, the young lovers find themselves learning about their sexuality in a somewhat awkward but honest way. Sam and Suzy are both very likeable characters and, as they do themselves, the audience yearns for them to be able to be together. They have many sweet quirky moments, such as Sam attempting to offer Suzy a ‘pretty’ gift of earrings made of fishhooks and beetles as well as a DIY ear-piercing session.
The ensemble of characters and their performances are all absolutely fantastic. Murray – as usual – shines with his priceless deadpan demeanour but surprisingly it is Norton who steals the spotlight as Scout Master Ward, who provides a hilarious performance that seems completely unexpected as Norton is better known as a thriller/action movie actor. Whilst sometimes he comes across in a strikingly similar manner to Owen Wilson’s performance style in a Wes Anderson film, his performance was not diminished by this and consistently impressed throughout. Norton should definitely pursue comedic projects more often.
The only real downside is the last act of the film, which feels somewhat muddled and incoherent. In a film with such a simple story, this shouldn’t be the case.
However, Anderson’s oddball romantic comedy is an absolute must-see as it offers one of his greatest endeavours as a writer/director/producer and includes a stellar cast and a fantastic array of performances. It will linger with you long after you leave the cinema.