Starring: Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, Moonrise Kingdom follows a young boy and girl falling in love. When they are moved to run away together, various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down – which might not be such a bad thing. Bruce Willis plays the town sheriff; two-time Academy Award nominee Edward Norton is cast as a camp leader; Academy Award nominee Bill Murray and Academy Award winner Frances McDormand portray the young girl’s parents; the cast also includes Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman. The young boy and girl are played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
A Wes Anderson film may seem like a daunting prospect to the casual cinema goer, with it’s emotional detachment, faux intellectualism and characters who walk, talk, dress and act like someone you’d see on LATFH.com. While there is a certain merit to these criticisms, they are unfair. In Anderson’s films the cold, dry acting is not detachment rather it is restraint, so that when there finally is an emotional release it is more powerful because it is used sparingly.
The big words and pretensions of the characters are part of Anderson’s overall theme of characters who can’t communicate. The theme of parents being unable to communicate with their children and being intimidated by one another and this is made more humorous when characters have a vast litany of vocabulary at their disposal. I’m just going to put this out there that I don’t find Wes Anderson’s films that funny. If anything they are restrained dramas that happen to have humorous moments in them.If you are a Wes Anderson fan then Moonrise Kingdom wont disappoint.
There is more empathy with the characters this time round, it is almost as if Anderson is warming to the characters that he helped create. The child actors are very good. Ed Norton is likable, which for someone who doesn’t like him is an achievement.
Bill Murray and Bruce Willis seem to got their scripts mixed up with Willis playing the sad sack cop and Murray the stern patriarch. Willis proves that if you deploy him just right he still can deliver an understated yet highly effective performance. Jason Schwartzman shows up for what is essentially an extended cameo but walks away with the entire film.
The film is beautifully structured, flashbacks are deployed when our interest is sufficiently piqued. The plot is definitely not predictable, there is a third act deus ex machina that is sufficiently signposted throughout so that it doesn’t come across as lazy writing but rather a well constructed set piece that forces all the principal characters into the same room. I laughed quite a bit at this, even more so than Fantastic Mr Fox. A Wes Anderson film may seem like a daunting prospect but give it a try.