Saturday, 9 June 2012

Moonrise Kingdom Review

Moonrise Kingdom 
Before this review gets torn to shreds, I’d like to make it clear that I’ve never had the same affinity towards Wes Anderson as so many have. This is not to say I don’t enjoy his films. To the contrary, I’ve really enjoyed the likes of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr Fox. However watching an Anderson film is a very different experience than your typical piece of cinema. There’s a uniqueness to his style of film-making, mixing charming tales with surrealism and quirkiness, all under a veneer of vibrant colours and fitting soundtracks. Moonrise Kingdom has been celebrated by critics and fans. And while it sticks to the typical Anderson methodology of cinema, it leaves a rather unfulfilled and mixed taste that lacks the flowing dynamics of charm and attachment that his previous works excel at. 
Set in 1965, the plot follows young lovers Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) escaping from their . A search party is launched by Local Sheriff Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Randy Ward (Ed Norton). What ensues is an adventure and snowballing tale that reveals the determination of the couple to escape their dysfunctional and troubled lives, in which they find solace in each other’s company. The narrative is straight-forward, commenting on usual themes of Anderson’s dramas. It’s a cute “coming-of-age” and strangely mature drama helmed by a young lead cast that progresses nicely through the first act. However where the eccentricity, obscurity and bouts of surrealism worked in his previous films, here it lacks that infused charm consequently coming across more awkward than endearing. Maybe this is linked to the fact that the “young actors” portraying mature lovers angle gets rather too brash. And while many will say “adorable”, it instead becomes too ambitious and uncomfortable. Another problem is that the film’s humour never transcends from the uncanny events and the few sparks of creative and comedic writing. Sure there are chuckles, but nothing especially amusing. 
The ensemble cast for the most part is pitch perfect, in particular Bruce Willis and Edward Norton. Each performance has a distinct personality that works well with the high points of the inconsistent script. Yet with such a strong collection of talent, the likes of Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and the cameo appearances from Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel’s never really resonant past the simple joy of their presence. Meanwhile, Kara Hayward’s debut is undeniably overshadowed by Jared Gilman’s confident and quirky performance, that while is essential to his character, fails to meld and build the enchanting chemistry with Hayward’s quietness. The rest of the child actors do surprising well, creating a dramatic energy that blends well with the fantastic look of the film. 
Stylistically, Moonrise Kingdom retains the visual motifs of Anderson’s usual colourful and lively palette. With sepia tones, vibrant yellows and reds, it never seises to amaze me the simplistic impact of just turning up the brightness and the colour saturation. It’s a beautiful film that definitely strikes a cord from the greys and gritty look of the majority of modern cinema. Anderson’s typical camerawork is here, with long pans and superbly framed shots that have an absorbing quality with intricate details and stylistic choices. Meanwhile the soundtrack channels folk and French tunes from the 60s and 70s, and works well with the romantic and poetic nature of the film, even without the usual Kinks’ track. 
Overall this is a very Wes Anderson film. The cast, the art direction and cinematography are the usual fantastic standard we’ve seen from his celebrated filmography and it works well in Moonrise Kingdom. However the narrative feels rather weak and coupled with the spotty script, never creates the persistent charm and humour we’ve come to expect. In the end, Moonrise never grabbed me. It became a persistently flat, and tedious affair. Disappointing. 

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