Posted on 8/01/12 05:36 PM
The evening I saw the latest film from director Wes Anderson was a chaotic one. New York is normally a swirling den of noise and nonsense but this particular day was madness. The subway to work was crowded, the bus home was worse and when 6:00 rolled around, my mind was spinning. My plan for that evening was to see a movie, get back in the groove of weekly viewings and reviews. The Dark Knight would have been an obvious choice but I couldn't handle more noise, regardless of the good reviews and the thousands of people standing outside the AMC on 34th St. My solution? A quirky and quiet film made by the director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and the Fantastic Mr. Fox. My decision to eschew the bombast of the blockbusters proved to be a good one. Not only is Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom one of the finest films the director has ever made, it's one of the best movies of the year and should be a slam dunk addition to my Best of 2012 list come December.
The world of Moonrise Kingdom is set on the idyllic New England island of New Penzance. Here we meet the usual cast of quirky Wes Anderson characters: a local policeman (Bruce Willis), a troop of Khaki Scouts headed by the no nonsense Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and the Bishop family including lawyers Walt (Bill Murray), Laura (Frances McDormand) and their four children. Like many of Anderson's early films, these characters are complex, interesting and charmingly off center. Anderson excels at creating surreal worlds that are familiar enough for audiences to relate to but just foreign enough to give them their own flavor. Moonrise Kingdom is the best example of this dichotomy since Rushmore and as a result, shines the brightest among the director most recent efforts.
The central drive of the story is one of love in the face of all odds, a common theme in a Wes Anderson picture. This time around it's the awkward yet endearing joining of two young people, Suzy (Kara Hayward), the book obsessed eldest daughter of the Bishop family and Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), a runaway Khaki Scout. Together, they go on an adventure that ruffles the feathers of the entire town. The pair travels over trails, dances awkwardly and shares moments over their beach swept campsite. Anderson has an uncanny knack for making his underage stars more adult than the grownups, and Moonrise Kingdom does a wonderful job doing just that. One could make the argument that the further Anderson has strayed from having children at the center of his films, the worse they have become. Luckily for long time fans, Moonrise Kingdom has no such issue as the film's stars do most of the heavy lifting and pull it off beautifully.
The film is also one of the best looking movies the director has ever produced. Each shot is meticulously framed and executed, all with Anderson's signature slant. The cinematography reminds the audience of reading a picture book in the way they're presented and further lends authenticity to the lighthearted yet emotionally involving story. The comedy is perfectly balanced with the drama, and everything is fine tuned to a near perfect shine. I didn't even mind the strange cadence the cast spoke in. While sometimes it was hard to make out what exactly they were saying, it further enhanced the mood of the island being a familiar yet very different place.
If you're like me, you get wrapped up in movies. The bad ones may itch like Grandma's sweater but the good ones soften your heart like a warm Snuggie. Regardless of the feel, I'm the type of person that likes to get entwined in the story on screen. After watching Moonrise Kingdom, my walk home in the madhouse city seemed a little lighter and easier to bear. Wes Anderson's latest film may be one of his more accessible features but that doesn't mean it's any less like curling up with a good fairytale next to a roaring bonfire. Featuring a great story, simple yet involving performances and a sense of joy I haven't felt since last year's Hugo, Moonrise Kingdom is a triumphant combination of style and cinema. Destined to rank as one of my favorite film of the year, Wes Anderson's latest movie is a return to form that fans, causal and hardcore alike, cannot afford to miss out on.