Arguably the most popular indie director working within the entertainment industry today, Wes Anderson has perfected his unique style over the years. It’s that unique style that has given him room to operate with different subject matter, yet having the audience be able to recognize his work from a mile away.
“Moonrise Kingdom” marks Anderson’s returns to live action after a brief stint in the world of animation with “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Taking place in 1965 New England, the film follows two teenagers as they decide to run away, which then causes a local search party to find them.
The setting lends itself perfectly to Anderson and his style. It’s the first time he’s worked in a different time period and he should feel right at home, as the audience easily does.
Much like Quentin Tarantino and a few other directors, Anderson usually works with a core group of actors. This time he enlists the help of Bill Murray, making the number of times they’ve worked together at six. Along with Murray, Jason Schwartzman, another Anderson favorite, is along for the ride.
Those two are just the tip of the iceberg, however, as Anderson has gotten an all-star cast for “Moonrise Kingdom.” Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Frances McDormand are all wonderful.
The real stars of the film are the two newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Both young actors are starring in their first film and what better director than Anderson to craft for them a playful and quirky playground to display their acting skills. The two comprise much of the screen time, and the way Anderson plots the film helps tell their relationship with ease.
The movie is shot nicely but the main draw here are the close-ups that Anderson incorporates. The audience gets multiple close-ups of our two main actors and it’s utilized to great effect.
There’s also the signature Anderson slow-mo shot, this time following the two kids, Schwartzman and Gilman’s scout troop. It’s set up brilliantly and composed in way only an extremely talented director can do.
There are a few unresolved aspects that plague the film, namely one that involves Hayward’s character. Throughout the movie she’s having trouble with her parents, feeling unwanted, and all of this information helps shape her character into the person the audience cares for. However, her situation is never ultimately resolved the same way Gilman’s is.
The movie ends up going over the top during a few moments, namely when Gilman is struck by lightning. However, this kind of scene, along with a fight scene that takes place, are very stylized and done in a way that only Anderson is doing.
There are many films that try and portray the adolescent experience, and a person can usually find one that works within a specific age range. That doesn’t mean that they always work though.
Anderson does an excellent job, with the help of his young actors, of portraying their situations and their relationship together while making the audience feel for them.
The music is fantastic, incorporating various orchestral works as well as some ‘60s French pop in the form of Françoise Hardy. While utilizing outside work, Anderson also has one of the most sought after composers currently working, Alexandre Desplat, scoring the film.
Anderson’s films have never been plagued by bloated runtimes, and the same can be said for “Moonrise Kingdom,” which clocks in at a clean 94 minutes. The movie is essentially split into two parts and each work well individually, but when composed in the way that Anderson puts it together, it works really well.
The style from every other Anderson film is here but the heart is what really shines in “Moonrise Kingdom.” The two lead performances help pad out a brilliant cast in one of the most charming and likable films of 2012, so far.
***** / *****