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Moonrise Kingdom

September 4, 2013

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Director: Wes Anderson
Actors: Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, Bruce Willis

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Synopsis: In an isolated island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, two children – Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) – run away and attract a huge search party from all the varied personalities of that island and beyond.

Review: Wes Anderson has been manoeuvring towards this film his whole career. His previous stories have always been characterised by their players – whimsical and disillusioned adults wedged with child-like personalities and nostalgic yearnings for the ‘past’. Here, in Moonrise Kingdom, comes Anderson’s first, direct ode to childhood, with his modus operandi being ironically flipped and centred around two bold adolescents, Sam and Suzy, conspiring all too wilfully to take on the rituals and responsibilities of adult life.

It really is such a sweet-natured film – not too gooey, but pitched just right in finding the earnest rebellion of Sam and Suzy endearing and comic, but also doused in a balm of elegy; perhaps reflected in the fact Anderson set this in the ’60s – an act of looking back? As ever with Anderson, the cinematography and production design is ingenious and to die for, and his famed tracking shots find great mileage in the opening scan of Camp Ivanhoe, presided over by Edward Norton’s manchild-cum-scout leader. It’s a reminder that as well as being a flourish of camerawork, these tracking shots are marvels of theatrical timing and logistics, as the various scouts’ crazy contraptions come into view.

To be ultra-critical, the story does tail off in the final act, almost as if, beyond Anderson’s initial conception of this insular windswept island and the act of childhood rebellion that takes place on it, he hasn’t really thought through how to develop that narrative to feature-length format. At best, I read the climax to the film as Anderson’s quasi-Charlie Kaufmann pastiche of third act conclusions and the necessity for some kind of thriller resolution. In sum though, it’s a lovely film, teeming with empathy for its characters, and in possession of a deceptively sincere perspective over the wonders of childhood. (September 2013)

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