JIM ROSS rate Wes Anderson's quirky, beautiful new comedy.
Directed by Wes Anderson
The stellar rating here comes with a slight warning, but strong encouragement. If you don’t like Wes Anderson’s previous films, then I have to admit attempting to predict your reception of Moonrise Kingdom is a bit of a shot in dark. This is not anything new for Wes Anderson, but the manner in which he fits the story and his trademark humour and style together make this wonderful viewing – even for the slightly sceptical such as myself.
The story, set in 1965, follows Sam Shukusky and Suzy Bishop – 12-year-olds who are in love with one another. When they decide to run away from their fictional New England home (orphaned Sam abandons his scout troupe, Suzy runs away from her family), the locals band together and comb the island setting to find them. Leading the search are scout master Ed Norton, local police chief Bruce Willis, and Suzy’s parents, played by Frances McDormand and Anderson regular Bill Murray.
The visual style of Anderson is as clear here as it has ever been, as is his wry and emotionally distant humour. An exhilirating opening sequence sees his shot track in clean horizontal and vertical lines through the Bishop household. It’s an arresting sequence, with a lack of cuts (a feature throughout the film) and boldly symmetrical shot-making delivering an absolute visual masterclass. Even when scenes could be mundane, Anderson punctuates it with his idiosyncratic eccentricity (keep an eye out for the trampolinist). Shot with retro Super 16 film, the cinematography of Robert Yeoman wonderfully evokes a sense of time and place – even if this is very much embellished with the meticulousness (some might say precious) detail for which Anderson is known.
What makes this more than simply a well styled film, however, is the acting performances, and affection with which his characters have been treated. The relationship between the two youngsters is never displayed in a patronising fashion and, despite a slight emotional detachment inherent in Anderson’s style, is frequently touching and humourous. Although all the adults are on fine acting form, special mention goes to Bruce Willis. Playing a rather sad and downbeat local cop (as opposed to the misanthropic grumpiness of John McClane), Willis gives one of his best performances in years.
With arguably the most distinctive embodiment of his style and tone, Anderson has produced a film that, ironically, should have broad appeal. There is nothing revolutionary here in terms of his development as a director, but the manner in which he has presented Moonrise Kingdom means it is an absolute delight and his best film in over a decade.