On a peaceful island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, two 12-year-olds, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the forest - as a huge storm is brewing offshore. Sam's Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and the island's Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) urgently organise a search party. But the youngsters are resourceful - and committed to be together. Exiles from their homes in different ways, they defy the world and find their private kingdom on a beautiful, unspoilt beach.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
You best surrender and let Wes Anderson seduce you and draw you into this whimsical, magical fairy tale meant equally for adults and pre-teens - at least those with mature sensibilities. Selected to open the 2012 Festival de Cannes, the film offers a complex set of cinematic pleasures, ranging from its vibrant, eccentric visual presentation to its deadpan humour and superb performances. Oh, and the music! Anderson uses everything at his command to create a visceral experience that is more satisfying and complete than many movies achieve in 3D. For Anderson, the really effective 3rd dimension is the imagination of his audiences, which he ignites with quiet bravado. On no account miss the start of this film.
The Amazing Mr Anderson (of The Fantastic Mr Fox and Rushmore fame), has crafted a fairy story that is very much about the journey of its protagonists; it's about character and emotional links, about the surprises that people can spring on you with actions you can't foresee - and it's about fusing the elements of youthful romance with mature individuality.
The 12 year old Jared Gilman has a fabulous face for an Anderson fairy tale, expressive in a unique way, his dark rimmed glasses emphasising his thoughtful nature. Gilman is great. Suzy is also superbly cast; she's an attractive girl but not a Lolita. She is a genuine innocent, so much so she can make innocence out of the question; 'do you know how to do a French kiss?'
All the children in the Khaki Scout troop are excellent, and some get to do quite a bit more than fill the screen. As for the adults, Anderson obviously gets whoever he wants for whatever he wants: Harvey Keitel in a small and ignominious role as a senior Scout, Tilda Swinton in a small but wonderfully articulated role as Social Services, Bob Balaban as the red-coated Narrator who pops up occasionally to tell us about the storm (amongst other things) and Jason Schwartzman as a mustachioed and cookie Cousin Ben.
The larger roles are wonderfully filled by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand - the latter as Suzy's legally trained, domestically bizarre parents. Anderson doesn't satirise them, though; he respects and nurtures all his characters. It's a signature item in his filmmaking.
Even as I write this, I wish I were back in the cinema, enjoying the film's joyous, humane and forever surprising moments again.
Review by Louise Keller:
Through its candy-coloured surrealism, there's a simple, child-like innocence about Wes Anderson's quirky Moonrise Kingdom, with quiet charm permeated by whimsy. With its title conjuring up visions of fantasy, dreams and the promise of things to come, once again Anderson paints a distinctive vision creating a totally different reality from his other films although the brush strokes are uniquely Anderson.
Presented like a fable, the film has a stilted feel that tells its story simply; the characters jump in front of our eyes as prominently as characters might in a children's pop-up book. Like Darjeeling Limited, it is a road movie of sorts and its mannered tone is more akin to The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums. Appealing to the child in each of us, this story of puppy love, loners and boy scouts is sweet without clawing, humorous in an offbeat fashion and poignantly sincere with its respectful depiction of its characters.
The surreal world of Moonrise Kingdom hits us sharply as indelible imagery of a sullen girl peering through binoculars from a red and white house is juxtaposed with a bespectacled khaki scout wearing his Davy Crockett hat at camp. The tone of the film comes as a jolt and Anderson counts on the fact his audience will respond and be drawn into the vividly painted reality.
It is 1965 and at the precise moment that Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman) walk towards each other in a remote meadow, we realise they know each other, having both run away from their respective worlds to be together. (Their secret friendship began a year earlier, when Sam met Suzy, who was dressed as a raven for a performance of Benjamin Britten's 'Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra'.)
While parents, scoutmasters, police and scouts begin the frantic search for the two 12 year olds, the youngsters sit on the banks of the river, write an inventory, read books and dance to a Françoise Hardy record, the singer's gentle tones wafting through the air from the borrowed record player. Many of these scenes are totally incongruous, like when Suzy poses for Sam in an innocently provocative state of semi-undress as he paints her on canvas and easel. When they are found, the scene in which Bill Murray's irate father Walt Bishop lifts the mini-tent under which the couple are sitting, arms wrapped around each other is a mix of the ridiculous and the heartfelt. But this is indicative of the sentiments we feel throughout the film.
As always Anderson picks his players discerningly and it would not be an Anderson film without the zany presence of Murray. Tilda Swinton is outstanding as Social Services and Jason Schwatzman, whose Cousin Ben conducts a pseudo marriage ceremony for the youngsters is delightfully droll. I especially enjoyed Frances McDormand as Sam's adulterous mother; her affair with Bruce Willis's local police officer is beautifully handled. (This is Willis as we have never seen him before.) Edward Norton has fun with his role of Scout Master and watch out for Harvey Keitel in a surprise cameo. Bob Balaban, appearing as the occasional narrator, looks suspiciously like a Christmas Elf.
With the solid platform of experience from the top cast, Hayward and Gilman are allowed to blossom and shine as the love-struck youngsters, their social ineptness acting as the driver as they gravitate to each other. Anderson manages to make life look simple - what a talent that takes!
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MOONRISE KINGDOM (PG)
CAST: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban
NARRATION: Bob Balaban
PRODUCER: Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
SCRIPT: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert D. Yeoman
EDITOR: Andrew Weisblum
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Stockhausen
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 30, 2012
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.