Much like Tim Burton’s recent effort Dark Shadows, Moonrise Kingdom could only be made by its distinctive director. But unlike Burton, Wes Anderson has succeeded. Like him or not he is a unique director committed to his style, making movies the way he wants to make them and appealing to a certain segment of the movie going public while repelling others who don’t dig his uniquely idiosyncratic approach. Moonrise Kingdom is no different, and is perhaps the most Wes Anderson of any of his movies so far.
Set on a New England island in the mid-1960s, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of a young boy and girl who run away from home after devising a plan to meet up. With him an orphan boy scout and her a curious yet unhappy child who wants to get away from her parents and three brothers, the two attempt to live out in the woods together while various search parties from around the island (and beyond) try to track them down.
Starting off with an exquisite sequence in which the camera manoeuvres throughout the house of the main girl, Suzy, from minute one this is unmistakably Wes Anderson-esque. From the clothes, which somehow still feel retro in spite of the story being set in the past, to the eccentric music choice and quirky characters this is everything that fans of Anderson know and love turned up to 11. But as a result of Anderson honing his particular brand of peculiarity over the years it feels completely natural and believable within context.
Anderson has enlisted the help of an impressive list of actors including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, as well as using regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. But they are really just add bonuses on top of the real highlights of the film, newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman who play the two naively love-struck runaways Suzy and Sam. Both are young actors to watch for the future, providing the movie with its heart and soul.
Naturally this isn’t a movie that’s easily predictable. We’re in the hands of a director who has proven that he can just as easily leave you on a bittersweet note as a happy one. Much like his last live-action film The Darjeeling Limited, this takes some unexpected turns that will split people and, admittedly, the more fanciful attempts at surprise don’t always hit the mark the way they should – not to give anything away but a sequence involving water feels rather clunky.
By no means Anderson’s best work (The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited stand as high points for me) but still a wonderfully unique, funny and memorable movie that deals with adolescent love in a very charming way. Anderson returns to great live-action form after the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox, once again proving his ability to create something that’s rooted in nostalgic reality and yet lives entirely in a world of its own.
Moonrise Kingdom is released in UK cinemas on May 25th.