Moonrise Kingdom - Blu-ray Review

'With their child consistently going missing, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand should be apoplectic. Instead they seem narcoleptic.'

If you find Wes Anderson's films sometimes twee, often pretentious and frequently style-over-misguided-substance, then be aware that Moonrise Kingdom is not going to be the film likely to change your mind. Whilst Anderson has flaws as a film-maker - and they are on show here - you have to admire him for sticking to his stylistic choices and directing beliefs. Whether that is a good or a bad thing depends on quite how fully paid-up a member you are of the Anderson fan club.

The good news is that, whatever else Moonrise Kingdom is or isn't, it is a beautiful film. Anderson's eye for a symmetrical shot, coupled with Robert D. Yeoman's ability to find matching colours in his locations, makes this arguably Anderson's most visually exciting, and consistent, film. Early scenes are smothered in mustard hues, later ones giving way to colder colours as the narrative progresses. It is difficult to argue against this film being the quintessential 'beautiful indie', like someone has picked up all of the colours in that particular crayon box and painted a masterpiece with them.

But then, look and style have never been Anderson's problems. Character and narrative have. For some unknown reason, nearly every character in every Anderson film delivers dialogue as though they are half asleep, drugged up on prozac, drifting away in a half-hearted daze of disinterest. With their child (Kara Hayward) consistently going missing, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand should be apoplectic. Instead they seem narcoleptic. The child runaways on which the narrative is focused (strong debutants Hayward and Jared Gilman) never panic about their situation, never seem concerned when events take a turn for the worse. As apparently always has to be the case, Moonrise Kingdom exists in a world where characters are constantly on the brink of walking off the set and finding a quiet place for a snooze.

On a more base level, the film's desire to be 'different', to fit in with the hipster crowd of pipe-smoking, Davey-Crockett-hat-wearing kids, is occasionally so painfully apparent it becomes awkward, like your Dad when he calls something good 'bad' and leaves the house wearing a pair of your Beats. 'Is Moonrise Kingdom possibly hipster enough?', you can almost see Anderson thinking, 'no, lets give the main character a kitten to carry in a wicker basket, for no Earthly or plot-related reason'. Sam (Gilman) wears a female broach throughout. Nothing wrong with that. But Anderson can't help but scream about how alternative it is. 'It's not actually meant for a male to wear', the character says, 'but I don't give a damn'. You brave and egregious rebel fighter, you.

There is also a scene which is at least noticeable - possibly to the film's detriment, possibly in a brave way - where Sam and Suzy (Hayward) begin to tentatively explore small baby-steps of their physicality. There's an argument that this is a refreshingly honest segment about twelve year-olds' experiences, an argument that this merely reflects the greater themes of the film, namely that Sam and Suzy are more grown-up than the adults (we see McDormand and Murray in separate beds). Either way, it's a scene serious enough of content and decision which means it stands out from the whimsical nature of the rest of the runaway narrative - despite Anderson's attempt to placate it with an 'ironic' film reference and his typical staging - and it ends up jarring.

In the end, as always, engagement with Moonrise Kingdom not as a Wes Anderson film but as a fable of childhood is more important, and the success of the film in this regard will potentially come down to individual experiences. Personally, films like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Submarine spoke more to me, in a more commanding, less twee voice, than a film in which there is a pause for the two leads to dance bizarrely on a beach, whilst French music whines on a portable record player in the background. The only bits I truly fell in love with were Bob Balaban's segments as narrator and they are not enough for a film which wants to have so much to say about being an awkward pre-teen in a world full of mad adults.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic movie review of Moonrise Kingdom. I felt this was probably the best Wes Anderson film so far. It wasn't quite as awkward as some of his previous films. Edward Norton's character was one of my favorite.