“I don’t care what you guys say; I think the new Wes Anderson movie is gonna be quirky.” So tweeted the imitably dry Andy Levy about Moonrise Kingdom-or really any Wes Anderson, which of course is the point.
The Flower, who enjoyed The Fantastic Mr. Fox was eager to see this. The Boy, who didn’t care much for Fox and wasn’t all that keen on The Darjeeling Limited was less eager. I enjoy Anderson, but I keep my expectations mild. I expect his movies to be lightweight but a little dark, funny but not often laugh-out-loud funny.
Too, Anderson’s films co-written with Noah Baumbach are darker, broodier, less comic than his early work co-written with Owen Wilson. In this film he teams up again with Roman Coppola, who co-wrote The Darjeeling Limited, and the two manage to hit the sweet spot.
Moonrise is a funny, whimsical film set in a 1965 New England island town about a pair of alienated 12-year-olds who plot over a year’s time to run away together. It has a dark undercurrent, of course, but not an overpowering one. In addition to the typical sweeping set shots and the excellent blocking and other Anderson trademarks—though the Flower pointed out that he didn’t do his lean-behind shot, where a character in close is talking to someone you can’t see, until they lean to one side and appear behind the character in front—there’s a story of purity and love that is quite winning.
If you like Anderson movies, you’ll like this. (Well, maybe. People who like Wes Anderson films are unpredictable.) But even if you don’t like them, you might just like this anyway. (I’m working on creating the most meaningless recommendation ever…)
I had this thought while watching it that it’s sort of the anti-“Blue Lagoon”. In that story, the absence of adults leads to children having sex, because “it’s natural"—basically, a thin cover for ephebophilia. The camera leers. The audience is invited to be titillated. And those who object are prudes and unnatural.
In this story, the presence of adults drives the kids away, and while they’re in love and experimenting with kissing and so on, the movie never gets creepy. The kids are awkward, timid, and manages to have 12-year-old Kara Hayward running around in a vintage 1965 mini-dress without ever ogling or inviting prurience. (Jared Gilman is Sam, who is Anderson’s stock male character: An odd combination of bravado and neuroses.)
The kids draw a sharp contrast with the adults, who are by turns self-involved, officious, dull-witted, dull-emotioned—in fact, in writing this, it seems like Moonrise Kingdom feels more like a Roald Dahl story than Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox did.
The adult cast is populated by actors who’ve either been in Anderson’s movies before, or make you sort of think they have, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, of course, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and, acting as a narrator of sorts, Bob Balaban.
They’re all perfect, except for being 10-20 years too old. Seriously, Suzy (Hayward) is supposed to be the oldest child (of four) to Murray and McDormand’s characters. Characters in their late ‘30s/early ’40s would have made more sense.
Tilda Swinton is still playing the White Witch, but I guess she’s been doing that since before Narnia. In this, she plays "Social Services”, an implacable force of bureaucracy determined to take Sam to detention.
From a narrative standpoint, the movie starts to careen out of control toward the end, though the pace is fast enough to help you overlook the occasional breaks in continuity. It makes an emotional sense, even if the details don’t quite hang together.
The Flower and The Boy both liked it a lot, finding it very funny and not boring at all.