Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Review

I don’t think films by Wes Anderson are for me. They have an arty, quirky and unusual style to them that I can’t quite get behind. I remember watching The Royal Tenenbaums when I was a bit younger and not really understanding it. It starred Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson and I was looking for a decent and easy comedy but instead got something much more surreal and unusual.

He’s even put me off Fantastic Mr Fox. It doesn’t look like the novel I loved as a kid. Its been a while since read Roald Dahl’s book but it seems to stray from the source material and this puts me off too. I was happy to leave Wes Anderson movies, satisfied that his style and direction just wasn’t for me.

The cast in Moonrise Kingdom is too good to ignore.

You can’t ignore the cast in Moonrise Kingdom though. Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel. That cast alone is enough to draw me in, regardless of the film or the story. With that in mind I gave Moonrise Kingdom a go, determined to view it with an open mind.

It didn’t surprise me that it started as randomly and unusual as I was expecting. The characters were introduced in scenes resembling a dollhouse. It then shifted to the unusual scout-style group led by Ed Norton and then on to the story of our young runaways. All done unconventionally, all done in a way that would usually alienate me and all done in such a way that I was drawn in.

I really enjoyed seeing Ed Norton play the scout master with little grip on his role or his life in general. Bruce Willis is fantastic as the dishevelled, out-of-his-depth local sheriff and Bill Murray just delivers the classic Bill Murray, essentially making any unusual line or situation that little bit funnier. It was all unusual but it was being played straight, by top acting talent, and I couldn’t help but be interested.

It’s the two central child characters that steal the film though.

It also helped that I knew very little about the film and couldn’t see where it was going. I had some idea that the movie was about a couple of runaways but beyond that, I knew very little and could guess even less. The two runaways in question are played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward and in a film with at least one Oscar nominee, they manage to steal the show. They deliver some great lines and get out into some fantastic situations and play it so straight and nonchalant that you can’t help but be entertained.

The characters didn’t alienate with their unusual quirks or strange way of being. Usually with a Wes Anderson film, I feel like characters are unusual for the sake of being unusual, doing strange things for strange sake. This didn’t seem to have that feel. Instead the characters actions and dialogue highlighted the absurd and whether it was intentional or not, this is where most of the humour came from. It felt like I was finally understanding a Wes Anderson movie.

There are still some strange and surreal moments but they are never alienating.

The film does begin to falter towards the end. It’s a slow build and subtle story to begin with, which begins to get bigger and more absurd as the movie progresses. I think the more perilous and silly the movie gets, the more it begins to lose the magic, especially when it comes to the two child actors and what they bring to the movie.

It never stops being entertaining and interesting though. The actors are great, playing out of type characters in some cases and getting to have some real fun doing it. The story is very random, as you would expect but directed in a fantastic and unique way.

Overall, against the odds, I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom. It is as surreal and unusual as a Wes Anderson film usually is. This time though, I didn’t feel like I was missing something or being put off by how strange the movie was. The actors are great, especially the two central child characters, and the story draws you in, even if it does lose its way towards the end. Maybe I should give Royal Tenenbauma another go…

Rating 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Guess I should go back and revisit some of Wes Anderson’s older films.


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