Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

22 Jul

Wes Anderson’s films have always inhabited a grey area between childhood and adulthood that somehow ignores adolescence, displacing or subsuming it within such obsessions as theatre, prodigious careerism, or science. Their children are  solemn, driven and self assured, while adults are disappointed, bewildered and lost — burdened with relationships, neuroses, responsibilities and pasts that overwhelm their emotional capacities. Like Peanuts, they are kids masquerading as adults. Such a tendency to displace teenage life does not preclude Anderson’s films from being absolutely obsessed with the humour and pathos of adolescence, but rather, by ignoring the conventional areas and periods of youth that other types of narrative obsessively focus on, they instead reflect upon another kind of adolescent experience. To put it plainly, they are movies for nerds. Moonrise Kingdom is firmly entrenched in this canon – though it does feature some distinctive particularities of its own.

Given his seeming predilection for preteens as cyphers for his own narrative interests, it is actually a little surprising that Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson’s first film to feature a preteen boy as a protagonist. The film follows Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), a solemn, competent and self-assured (natch.) 12 year old orphan who goes AWOL from his New England scout unit in the summer of 1965, taking with him his pen-pal girlfriend, the equally alienated Suzy Bishop (Kara Haward). This incites both the ire of her bourgeois parents and a manhunt spearheaded by his fellow campers and the local authorities – embodied in a single melancholy police officer played  against type by Bruce Willis. Surrounded by a cast of veterans including Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, it really is impressive to see how the kids succeed in holding the narrative centre to a plot that is part prison break, ensemble comedy, and love story —with all the distinctive pathos and humour that I’m used to seeing in Anderson’s films.

The composition is akin to that of a collection of meticulous shoebox dioramas, there is an abundance of loving close-ups of mid-century paraphernalia, and the soundtrack makes prominent use of children’s classical music —a long-present aspect of Anderson’s repertoire. In short, this film is heavy on all those aspects which will be noticed by both the lovers and haters of his films. Whether you enjoy such affectations or not, Moonrise Kingdom’s setting and characters lend them a much greater level of  authenticity and cultural specificity than in any of Anderson’s other movies. No longer are these the stories of child-like, backwards-facing adults entrenched in the detritus of the mid-20th century. Rather, this same cartoonish nostalgic geometry is instead allowed to become a tool of growth and evocation. Despite its similarities, this aspect lets Moonrise Kingdom truly represent a new kind of Anderson film. Check it out at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

By Camilo Diaz Pino

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One Response to “Moonrise Kingdom (2012)”

  1. Charmaine July 23, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    You had me at Bruce Willis

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