‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Review, Wes Anderson Directs Bruce Willis and Edward Norton
Moonrise Kingdom is a return to the vintage form of Wes Anderson’s most famous works, like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Kingdom stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, fish out of water types that find eachother and embrace an adventure of their own. Anderson delivers the film in his notorious style, setting the camera in the middle of every set piece and building the direction around that. The adventure-love story delivers the goods that you’d expect in an Anderson film, with pitch perfect locations, quirky characters, revengeful kids, germane adults and a creative story that is both familiar and fresh at the same time.
The film begins with Sam skipping out of a crowded Scout camp, feeling he doesn’t belong – at least that is the company line. In truth, he has hatched a plot to meet up with Suzy, a cute but troubled gal, who feels alone in a family of boys. Sam’s Scout survival skills play front and center as he pitches tents, catches fish, climbs mountains, kayaks waters and scales the terrain of New Penzance, with a freshly escaped from her home Suzy in tow. Their departures set off a massive search on the New England island, which propels the action.
A massive storm has been foreshadowed, so there is inherent danger in the kids’ getaway, placing an urgency to the matter that may not otherwise be there. The search party, led by Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), struggles with finding the elusive duo, what with Sam’s skills being utilized to their max. It’s part of the reason Sam was loathed by his fellow Scouts, particularly advanced at what he does, which withdraws him from their good favor. Suzy has her own issues, dealing with anger management issues common to teens going through puberty. The tale unwinds in expected, but still fun, ways.
Norton, Willis and Bill Murray provide the headlines and star quality to help sell the film, but it’s the teenage leads who carry most frames and who the story is entirely centered around. The stars merely fill in the blanks to help round out the cast and assist in the action. The film is not without some minor faults, such as secondary storylines that are unfulfilled (an implied affair between Captain Sharp and Laura Bishop – Frances McDormand – comes to mind) and don’t need to be there, but all in all Kingdom delivers the goods on a cute and convincing tale of newborn love. It’s the humor and quirk of Anderson’s characters that usually win out
Despite Stars, Director Wes Anderson Takes Chances on Unknowns
Anderson, though he may not be credited for doing so, is actually a pretty risky director. He has taken chances on unknown actors and by giving them lead roles in his films, he’s largely helped them into the public consciousness and aided in turning them into stars. For Bottle Rocket, his earliest film venture, he gave the world notice of Owen Wilson. In Rushmore, he handed the lead role to Jason Schwartzmann (who has a great scene stealing mini role in Kingdom). Here, he features two young actors who have never worked in film before and both turn in convincing, solid performances. Both kids may be names to watch in the future. Anderson deserves credit for taking chances, when many may simply see his films as cute, cult pieces.
Moonrise Kingdom ultimately succeeds through the delivery of a unique story, in a style that fans are sure to embrace. This is his best film since Tenenbaums and one that will provide fans with a satisfying theatrical experience. For those, it’s required viewing. However, with many things Anderson, for others, an acquired taste. I, however, am a fan.