Movie Review: “Moonrise Kingdom” is Wes Anderson’s most poignant coming-of-age story yet, focusing on whimsical set design, an eclectic set of characters, and a love story able to be felt by all.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a film that, in many ways, encapsulates the singular vision of its director, Wes Anderson. From its symmetrical compositions to its meticulously curated soundtrack, every element of the film is crafted with an almost obsessive attention to detail. But unlike some of Anderson’s later films, which can feel like hollow exercises in style over substance, “Moonrise Kingdom” is a film that balances its idiosyncratic aesthetic with genuine heart and emotion.
Set in the summer of 1965 on a remote New England island, the film tells the story of two young outsiders who fall in love and run away together, setting off a frantic search by the local community. Sam (Jared Gilman) is a Khaki Scout who has been shunted around the foster system and is desperate for a sense of belonging. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is a troubled young girl with a rebellious streak who longs for something more meaningful than her bourgeois upbringing can offer. Together, they embark on a journey of self-discovery that is both funny and poignant, as they navigate the complexities of young love and the challenges of growing up in a world that doesn’t always make sense.
A Visually Whimsical and Nostalgic Tribute to 1960s New England
One of the most striking elements of “Moonrise Kingdom” is its visual style, which creates a whimsical and nostalgic atmosphere that perfectly complements the story’s coming-of-age themes. Director Wes Anderson is known for his meticulous attention to detail and carefully crafted aesthetic, and “Moonrise Kingdom” is no exception. The film’s setting, which takes place on a fictional island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, is brought to life with a remarkable level of precision and charm.
The production design and art direction of “Moonrise Kingdom” are particularly noteworthy. The film’s visual palette is dominated by warm earth tones, muted pastels, and vintage patterns that evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity. The props and costumes are also meticulously curated, with each object and article of clothing contributing to the film’s overall aesthetic. From the khaki scout uniforms to the vintage record players and camping gear, every detail feels like it has been carefully chosen to create a specific mood and tone.
But beyond just the visual details, the cinematography of “Moonrise Kingdom” is also a key component of its whimsical and nostalgic style. The camera movements are often slow and deliberate, with shots that linger on the characters and their surroundings. The film makes use of symmetrical compositions, center framing, and wide-angle lenses, which give the scenes a sense of depth and balance. The result is a film that feels both dreamlike and rooted in reality, like a memory from a distant but cherished time.
The visual style of “Moonrise Kingdom” is a true testament to Wes Anderson’s unique and imaginative approach to filmmaking. Through his meticulous attention to detail and evocative imagery, he has created a world that feels simultaneously familiar and fantastical, transporting viewers to a place of nostalgia and wonder.
Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, and Edward Norton Excel in Memorable Roles
One of the strengths of “Moonrise Kingdom” is its ensemble cast, which features a mix of both established actors and newcomers. The young leads, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, deliver standout performances as the star-crossed lovers at the heart of the story. As Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, respectively, they bring a sense of earnestness and authenticity to their roles, capturing the awkwardness, intensity, and vulnerability of first love.
Bruce Willis also delivers a memorable performance as Captain Sharp, a local police officer who becomes involved in the search for Sam and Suzy. Willis brings a sense of world-weariness and vulnerability to the role, imbuing the character with a sense of pathos that is both unexpected and moving. His interactions with the young leads are some of the film’s most poignant moments, as he navigates the complexities of his own life while trying to help them find their way.
Edward Norton also shines in his role as Scout Master Ward, the leader of Sam’s Khaki Scout troop. Norton brings a sense of humor and heart to the role, playing the character with a mixture of earnestness and cluelessness that is both endearing and hilarious. His interactions with the other characters, particularly Sam, are a highlight of the film, as he tries to balance his duty as a scout leader with his own personal feelings and motivations.
Overall, the performances in “Moonrise Kingdom” are a testament to the skill and talent of the cast, as well as the direction of Wes Anderson. Each actor brings a unique energy and personality to their role, creating a dynamic and engaging ensemble that carries the emotional weight of the story. Whether it’s the young leads grappling with their first taste of love, or the adults trying to navigate their own complicated lives, the performances in “Moonrise Kingdom” are memorable, nuanced, and authentic.
Love, Loss, and Growing Up in “Moonrise Kingdom”
Love is a prominent theme in “Moonrise Kingdom.” The film centers around two young lovers, Suzy and Sam, who run away together on a small New England island. Their love is innocent and pure, and they are determined to be together despite the obstacles in their way. Throughout the film, we see how their love helps them navigate the challenges they face, from the disapproval of the adults around them to the dangerous storm that threatens their safety. Love is also explored in the relationships between the adult characters, particularly between Suzy’s parents, who struggle with their own marital issues.
Loss is another significant theme in the film. Both Suzy and Sam have experienced loss in their young lives, with Suzy feeling disconnected from her family and Sam being an orphan. They find solace in each other and in their shared experiences of loss, but they also have to confront the possibility of losing each other when they are caught by the adults and taken away from each other. The film also explores the loss of innocence and the inevitability of growing up, as Suzy and Sam both come to realize that they cannot stay children forever and must face the challenges of adulthood.
Finally, growing up is a central theme in “Moonrise Kingdom.” The film takes place in 1965, a time of great change and upheaval in American society. Suzy and Sam are on the cusp of adolescence, and the film explores the challenges and opportunities that come with growing up. As they navigate their journey, they learn about themselves and each other, and they come to understand the complexities of the world around them. The film portrays growing up as both exciting and daunting, as the characters grapple with the uncertainties of the future and the loss of the innocence of childhood.
How “Moonrise Kingdom” Fits into Wes Anderson’s Filmography
“Moonrise Kingdom” is directed by Wes Anderson, known for his distinctive visual style, use of symmetry, whimsical characters, and idiosyncratic storytelling. This film, like many others in Anderson’s filmography, fits into a larger thematic and stylistic framework that is uniquely his own.
One of the hallmarks of Anderson’s films is the use of a highly stylized aesthetic that emphasizes symmetry, color, and carefully composed shots. “Moonrise Kingdom” is no exception, featuring meticulously crafted set pieces, intricate costume design, and a palette of muted pastels and bright primary colors. The film’s setting, a New England island in the 1960s, is rendered in exquisite detail, with every prop and piece of furniture seeming to have been chosen with great care.
Anderson’s films are also characterized by a particular brand of humor that blends irony, deadpan delivery, and absurdism. “Moonrise Kingdom” is no exception, with its deadpan narration, quirky characters, and playful tone. The film’s plot, which revolves around two young lovers who run away from their respective homes to live together in the wilderness, is both sweetly romantic and slightly ridiculous, capturing the innocence and awkwardness of first love.
In addition to its visual and tonal style, “Moonrise Kingdom” also fits into the larger thematic concerns of Anderson’s filmography. Like many of his other films, it explores the themes of childhood, family, and nostalgia, while also grappling with the complexities of adult relationships and the passing of time. The film’s young protagonists, played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are both charming and relatable, capturing the joys and frustrations of adolescence in a way that feels authentic and heartfelt.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a quintessential Wes Anderson film, showcasing his signature style and themes while also standing on its own as a beautifully crafted and deeply affecting work of art.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is available to rent or buy on VOD!