We might have wised-up to Wes Anderson’s own particular brand of on-screen whimsy, but there’s more to be found within is latest offering, Moonrise Kingdom, which side-steps pretension to reveal a sweet and simple love story.
Rarely is a director’s most recent release compared quite so fervidly to his previous works as Wes Anderson’s has been. Having developed quite a fan-base, the inevitable backlash against his films has begun: Is it as good as Fantastic Mr. Fox? Could it be worse than The Darjeeling Limited? Every quirky character and stylised set sees Anderson risk being accused of re-hashing old ideas – which is why Moonrise Kingdom is such a pleasant surprise.
It’s not that Moonrise Kingdom isn’t everything you might hope for from this notoriously eccentric filmmaker. From the old-fashioned full-screen opening credits, to the slightly sepia colour palate and the casting of Bill Murray, this comic drama has got Anderson written all over it. The difference is that, at the heart of it, is an earnest take on innocence and adventure.
Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop (played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, respectively) are the 12-year-old runaway lovers at the centre of an otherwise star-studded cast. Sam has escaped the scout camp where he was under the supervision of dispirited Scout Master Randy Ward, played by Edward Norton. Upon discovering his disappearance, the scouts are joined by Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp, a lonely police chief, in organising a search party. It soon becomes apparent that the unpopular boy is embroiled in a plot to escape with fellow outcast Suzy, following a epistolary romance in which they both, predictably, prove to be wise far beyond their years.
Suzy’s distraught and dysfunctional parents, played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand join the search party, as does a woman simply known as Social Services, played by Tilda Swinton. Jason Schwartzman makes a brief appearance as the cousin of a Khaki Scout, whilst Bob Balaban provides a humorous motif the film’s narrator.
Yet despite the array of famous faces, it is the love-story at the centre of this film which stops it from being merely a case of style over substance. Although both halves of the young couple fully embrace Anderson’s fanciful aesthetic, and Hayward’s deadpan tom-boyishness could easily make her a strong contender for any film requiring a young Kristen Stewart, there is still an element of charm to their story.
The first half holds more humour that the second, and there are one or two moments which are distractingly dated, even with this Sixties-infused piece. As a church production of Noye’s Fludde (complete with costumes suggestive of Black Swan on a budget) seemingly begins to play out within the fictional town of New Penzance, and the composure of the adults is washed away, Anderson does not spare us the irony of events. However, aside from an array of maps, letters and so much camera-spinning you’ll feel dizzy, there is something a little less self-conscious – dare I say, a little less cool? – within the narrative, which will melt even the most hip of hearts.
Moonrise Kingdom is out in cinemas now.