Sean K. Cureton

Wes Anderson Delivers for the Seventh Time

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on June 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

Theatrical Poster

Moonrise Kingdom
Directed by Wes Anderson
4 out of 4 stars

Moonrise Kingdom, the seventh feature film from acclaimed director Wes Anderson, is quiet possibly the most accessible film of Anderson’s career. Kingdom is funny, heartwarming, and not quiet as quirky as such Anderson favorites like Rushmore or The Life Aquatic. The film also marks Anderson’s second collaboration with screenwriter Roman Coppola since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, which proves itself to be just as fruitful a partnership now as it was five years ago.

Wes’s new film is set in a New England island called New Penzance, and its story follows the exploits of two young star-crossed lovers named Sam Shakusky(Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop(Kara Hayward). This film, much like many of Anderson’s other works, is chiefly concerned with children, and the way in which children will often take on the roles of the adults around them while the adults behave like the children who have taken over the adult roles for them. In watching Sam and Suzy struggle to figure out the right way to kiss and hold one another one is reminded of just how clueless we all are when it comes to being in a position of adult authority and responsibility, no matter our respective ages.

The film boasts one of the most effective ensemble casts this reviewer has ever seen, touting both Anderson favorites like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman as well as Anderson new comers such as Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, and Harvey Keitel. Of particular interest, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton both provide performances in this film that might be their best works respectively in a long time for both of them. Norton’s Khaki Scout Master Ward is touchingly naïve and dedicated to the children in his scout pack and Norton’s performance in this role is a reminder of how great a performer Norton can be when he is given a great film to work in. Willis is equally wonderful as the island policeman Captain Sharp, whose understated humanity is heartbreaking and intensely human. Quiet frankly this might be the best performance of Willis’ entire career as it speaks volumes for his acting range outside of his usual roles within action flicks where he is predominately called on to play John McClane type heroes.

In addition to the stellar cast of seasoned adult actors, Wes has also cast some of the most effective inexperienced child actors this reviewer has ever seen, from the numerous khaki scout actors to the more prominent performances from stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Gilman is effectively charming in his portrayal of Sam, a precocious orphan who struggles to find his place in the world, and Hayward is wonderful with her withering stares and practiced maturity that acts as a crude disguise of her underlying innocence.

Moonrise Kingdom is a beautiful, beautiful film. The settings are quirky and odd, yet comforting and familiar to anyone accustomed to Wes Anderson’s sensibilities. The cinematography is surprisingly old fashioned, with numerous shots of perfect symmetry and a slightly tinted shade to the film itself, which creates a sense of classicism for the film. Moonrise Kingdom may be the most human film that Wes Anderson has directed yet, and it is also the best film to come out so far this year.


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