Moonrise Kingdom was without a doubt my most anticipated movie of 2012. Wes Anderson can be a hit and miss director. He’s made near masterpieces that are some of my favorites, but he will also make a few movies that are just alright. Anderson’s all-time best is the Royal Tenenbaums. I didn’t think anything could knock that off – it would take something huge. Hearing all the positive feedback was unbearable, I just saw it recently; late in the year. Countless times it would come up in conversation, and I couldn’t take part. While Anderosn has a style that can be subjective, some universal aspect is always apparent. Universal appeal is definitely something this had going for it (from the trailer, I wasn’t sure if it would); couldn’t find someone who didn’t love, or at the very least like it. Moonrise Kingdom is right up there with Rushmore (barely not up to that level), but doesn’t quite reach the greatness of The Royal Tenenbaums.
From the moment Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) meat they just knew they were made for one another. Suzy’s parents believe she is a “troubled” child; Sam is an orphan and lives in a foster home with people who really don’t like him in the least. They’ve both been in constant contact – through letters – for a long time and finally decide to act one day. Both of them agree to run away with one another to a special cove. Of course, they won’t be able to have maintain that a secret for long; as soon as they are found missing, a major search party is assembled to find the missing lovers.
Wes Anderson has such a – I know this is overused, but it’s accurate – wonderfully quirky style. It’s impossible not to watch one of his movies and not know your watching his movie. His style is unique and when done right is extremely well done. While his style is always there, he does different small things in each one of his projects. With Moonrise Kingdom, it’s a mix of everything he’s ever done. At times, it wouldn’t feel right (very rare), but the styles mesh organically as a whole. Anderson’s idiosyncratic film making sensibilities have served him well here; a sense of innocence is wrapped inside a frequently humorous adventure you don’t really want to end. Some scenes are very good while others are pure gold. I had a similar journey and feeling when watching 2011’s Midnight in Paris.
The screenplay was close to being perfect. The best aspect of it is how all the characters interact. I laughed hard consistently throughout. I’m not one to spoil, so I’ll have a limit to the “actual” information I’m telling. When everyone finds out the kids are missing, Willis and Norton’s characters call the foster parents – that’s part great. Also, when they call Tilda Swinton’s character, I loved that as well. Willis also had a great genuine moment with the main boy that came off just the right way. When a movie has so many characters the key is for you to care for most of them; preferably, all. All the characters are done right and likeable aside from two. Bill Murray is fine, but does nothing and in the end is completely wasted. The same thing can be said for Swinton. Dialog was spot-on most of the time; rarely did it have a miss.
The performances were splendid. Whenever a movie has kid actors – especially in leading roles – they can come off as annoying or uninteresting. Plus, not all, but some of those kid actors aren’t necessarily very good. Thankfully, this problem isn’t present in this particular case. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are marvelous together. While separate their both still really good, but the chemistry they have is something quite special. You believe everything they go through and root for them. I look forward in seeing what both of them decide to do next. Knowing Wes Andeson, they will most likely appear in one of his movies somewhere down the line.
Some great actors are in this as well surrounding the kids. I was pleased when first hearing that one of my favorite actors was in this – Edward Norton. He’s also appeared in another 2012 movie, The Bourne Legacy, which I’m trying to still have hope for with all the negative criticism going around. While the role isn’t the biggest one around, any time Norton’s on screen he’s just fantastic. The character gets fleshed out, but I still wish the role was a tad bigger. Norton was a major stand-out. Bruce Willis is very low key. Instead of playing it bland, an under-laying depth is obviously present. Little touches here and there are great; Willis is two for two this year. Speaking of going two for two, Frances McDormand is excellent – I don’t think I’ve ever not said that. Jason Schwartzman was perfectly used here. He pops up in the beginning of the third act and shines every second. Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton aren’t bad; they were just given the short end of the stick in the writing department.
A main aspect of Anderson’s movies that always grabs me is the soundtrack – Rushmore stands out the most in that particular department (I actually own it). While the soundtrack was far from bad, it didn’t surround and engulf every scene anywhere placed. I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom immensely; on countless levels. I can also easily say this is the biggest three and a half star rating I’ve ever given. You don’t know how close it came to being perfect. Aside from my main problems, a reasonably theory is that I’m judging this a bit too hard due to the sole fact that I am comparing this to outstanding movies from the same director. With all that said, Moonrise Kingdom is more universally appealing than his others. Lovely is a good word describing the experience you’ll have while watching. Moonrise Kingdom lands the number seven spot on my best of 2012 list at the present time and is Anderson’s third best film with Fantastic Mr. Fox not too far behind.