Cannes 2012 Review: Wes Anderson's Whimsical 'Moonrise Kingdom'
by Alex Billington
May 16, 2012
Everyone knows right away if they like Wes Anderson and his films, or not. He has a very unique, original style and a story structure that he often repeats, but it almost always works in his favor. The same goes for Moonrise Kingdom, his latest film which is premiering in Cannes, a quirky and fun romantic story about two 12 year old kids falling in love for their first time. It's whimsical and amusing in only ways that Wes Anderson can truly deliver, but it doesn't really stand out amongst the rest of his work. While it certainly is fun (a word that kept coming to mind) it didn't hit all the right notes for me to fall in love with it completely.
Moonrise Kingdom, written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, focuses on two young kids, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who live on a small New England island. When Sam, member of the "Khaki Scouts", decides to resign and run off to be together with Suzy, a slightly disturbed young girl who lives with her three younger brothers and wacky parents, the rest of the island goes up in arms and heads out with a search party. As is usually the case with Wes Anderson films, part of the adventure is seeing the story play out, watching all the fun twists and amusing quirks that keep it interesting. This time, I felt the film started off a bit lackluster, got much better towards the middle, but lost some of its steam by the end.
I'm referencing Anderson's past work often here because it's hard not to compare this film with his six other previous films (especially when I love Life Aquatic, Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox). Beyond that, while I enjoyed Moonrise, I didn't love it, even though I was hoping to. Something about it seemed a bit dry, a bit more unconventional than usual, even for Wes Anderson. There were very odd narration segments from Bob Balaban tossed in, as well as some very weird twists with a few characters I wasn't expecting. These were a few detractors from an overall charming, sweet, cute coming-of-age love story. It's not as endearing as other young indie love stories I've seen recently, but it's very fun, in a very Wes Anderson way of course.
A few of the more memorable highlights include Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp, giving a rather excellent performance, one of his few performances in recent years where I really enjoyed watching him; plus Bill Murray and Edward Norton in laugh-out-loud supporting roles. No one in Moonrise Kingdom overplays their characters, though I would say unfortunately Jared and Kara (as Sam and Suzy) weren't as impressive as they could have been. They were the key leads and should've been stronger, and more engaging, and while they do a serviceable job they don't knock this one out of the park. This is one I liked, but didn't love.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 7 out of 10