In 1965 on the island of Penzance, a young boy and girl run away together, forcing a massive search operation before the island is assaulted by a storm.
First things first – I must admit I’m not a fan of Wes Anderson
. Having sampled his entire filmography of seven features to date, I simply find the style too repetitive; the frontal presentation, whip pans, tracking shots, inserts and crowning slow motion moments too familiar. And I know I’m not alone, his films divide critics and audiences alike, rarely making waves at the box office and securing their hallowed place on the DVD shelves of a select group of fans around the world.
seems just fine with that, targeting his movies in a perfectly understandable fashion at those who are most likely to appreciate them, seemingly content to follow the formula indefinitely. Well those rarefied fans will be most pleased to know that there’s plenty of distilled Anderson
in his latest effort, Moonrise Kingdom
, while it might prove slightly more accessible to those outside the fold.Moonrise Kingdom
starts with fermented, 100% proof Wes Anderson
in an introduction that mixes omniscient tracking shots with a self-aware narrator (played by Bob Balaban
) and some beautifully layered compositions that draw you into this fanciful period world.
Things do start to feel a little less constrained after a time chiefly because, in contrast to many of his recent films, things actually happen in Moonrise Kingdom
. The kids, their parents, the scout master and police chief all have their parts to play and the plot itself is more active, providing token chase scenes and even a large scale fight – though predictably enough it happens off screen.
It helps that Anderson
has drafted in some new actors to bolster the familiar ranks of Bill Murray
, Jason Schwartzman
et al. Edward Norton’s
scout master is a solid addition (and its great to see him back on screen in any capacity) while some of the film’s best scenes belong to Bruce Willis
’ beaten down cop, who pines for the kind of love the two young characters feel for each other.
Unfortunately, the film quickly loses momentum whenever the young leads are on screen – particularly without the buffer of any more skilled performers. Their solo scenes together are a chore to watch, with Kara Hayward’s
monotone delivery jarring with Jared Gilman’s
predictable lisp and near ballistic precociousness. I get it, they’re supposed to be strange, misunderstood kids who find each-other but Anderson’s
take on youthful oddness is curiously restrained and more than a little irritating.
Despite a 94 minute running time, Moonrise Kingdom
feels like a much longer endeavour – mainly due to an extraneous fourth act that throws a bunch of cheap effects at the screen for the climatic storm sequence. The operatic strains are perfectly in keeping with the heightened tone of the film and the kids exalted sense of their own importance but it’s simply grating to those outside the cult of Anderson
There are entertaining elements to Moonrise Kingdom
– chiefly a few strong adult performances and some keen moments of humour and insight which will resonate with many people. But the film as a whole left me cold, nestled as it is inside a hyperstylised frame with little room for real engagement.