I have to be honest and say that when I first watched Moonrise Kingdom, which was also my first film from the director, I did not think too highly of it due to the fact that it was difficult for me to understand the characters and Anderson’s style was overwhelming. After repeated viewings, I was able to slowly find appreciation to the director’s chosen style and I started to find the appeal in the film’s characters, particularly its two central characters, Suzy and Sam. After continuously seeing Anderson’s films in a row, I started to find things in the film that I did not notice in my many previous viewings. It was much clear to me now the drive in the film’s characters and the underlying themes that was hidden behind the film’s magical facade.
Wes Anderson is in full swing here, umping up his signature in all aspects of this film. The detail that he brings to the film is certainly overwhelming, but that is part of the charm and it helps build that child-like mindset in order to shape the audience’s perspective with a sense of youth and curiosity; it helps us empathise with the two young central characters and their journey to be together. It is wonderful to finally see Anderson create a film that actually tells a story from a child’s point of view; many of his films have this youthful and playful quality to them but their stories are always centred on adults whose damage are rooted from their tragic childhood. Not only that, this film attains that warm surrealistic quality that he has been trying to achieve in his last few films. He has created a world from scratch, along with writer Roman Coppola, and in this world are tiny but multiple aspects that are based on the life that many children, or at least the writers, wished that existed; a place where open fields of nature dominates their environment, being a boy scout is a rite of passage, houses standing close by the ocean, and people within the community are somewhat closely connected to one another. To top it off, Anderson lets it take place in the era of the 60s, where life was much neater and simpler and provides the audience with a feeling of nostalgia.
Moonrise Kingdom in its essence is a love story, and it tells it in such a way that is beautiful and most importantly, magical. Granted, the characters in this film do not give off that magical vibe, but watching the determination of each of these two youngsters to be with one another, and taking place in a world that feels like bright summer painting, creating that sense of enchantment. When the two characters first meet, it may come off as emotionally blunt, but in actuality they have found that one person that completely understands their pain; Anderson allows the scene to feel subtle and quietly beautiful, especially in contrast to the wild and quirky style that he has given to all of the other aspects of the film.
Underlying behind its central story on love is a sad tale of two people in internal misery caused by the trauma left by their parents. Sam has lost his biological father and mother and because of that he has this emptiness inside him, which even his foster parents weren’t able to fill. To make things worse, his foster parents have chosen not to take him back after his departure with Suzy, as they simply couldn’t handle him. Suzy’s situation is the opposite, but ultimately it has given a similar effect. Her parents are still together, but they are miserable and are becoming distant from one another; along with this, they do not give Suzy the attention she needs and because of that, she feels isolated, lonely, and most of all depressed. Through both of their sadness, they tend to react as their way of expressing them and sometimes it tends to become violent or destructive. Their decision to run away together is their way of feeling free from the adults and peers around them that criticises and taunts them; their goal is to be together and stay at a place where they feel empowered, to be masters of their own selves. Both of these characters are a resemblance to Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel; they share and are driven by similar issues and the story of the film’s second half stays close to the events that take place in The 400 Blows, but done so in a way that is both entertaining and uplifting.
It was nice to see Robert Yeoman come back to handle the film’s photography. Yeoman and Anderson have decided to use Super 16mm cameras in order to create that nostalgic look that the director was going for, and achieving an entrancing quality through the use of a warm golden hue to its image, almost as if we were imagining this world in the most positive spectrum of our minds. The photography retains that typical Anderson quality to it through its perfectly composed shots, zipping pans and tilts, and lengthy tracking shots. It is through these that Anderson is able to perfectly shape the world and characters he creates, showing so much of a character by placing them dead-set on the middle of the frame, exposing them in such a way that many directors wouldn’t have the guts to do. Alexandre Desplat comes back, from Fantastic Mr. Fox, to compose and perform the score for Moonrise Kingdom. The score is ambitious, poetic, and most of all inspired. His work has this soft, sweet, youthful, and magical quality to them, helping to shape the story and world of these two young love birds. Some of the film’s music was also by composer Benjamin Britten, who is known for using children’s voices in his music. His music here gives the film a child-like but also an enchanting quality; it’s a crucial part in shaping the feel of multiple sections of this film.
The performances in this film were wonderful, especially its two central cast members. Jared Gilman, as Sam, and Kara Hayward, as Suzy, displayed charming and hilarious chemistry; they were able to carry the expectations in their roles that would make them feel like Anderson creations, but never at a point did they ever feel artificial. Moonrise Kingdom’s supporting cast is wonderful, especially since we get six new members, Bruce Willis; Tilda Swinton; Harvey Keitel; Edward Norton; Bob Balaban; and Frances McDormand, whom which was able to meet the specific and eccentric demands of Wes Anderson. Also the film brings back the always reliable Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman.
Moonrise Kingdom comes really close to being up there with The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, with its beautiful love story, emotionally rooted characters, and great sense of adventure.