Moonrise Kingdom

Into the Idle


Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward

Review written by Robert Patrick

Wes Anderson’s films are a phantasmagoria of pastels, popped bubblegum, fistfuls of glitter, and dust from the panes of some forgotten memory. The purveyor of the absurd and whimsical has shared his ice cream spoon, most recently, with the likes of the sardonic Noah Baumbach and the clownish Roman Coppola. While not all of Anderson’s films have been cohesive, chiseled, and well-rounded, the director’s movies have been particularly scatter shot as of late (the moribund Darjeeling Limited was more inert than a pet store iguana). The trumpet blowing, daffy smirk of Rushmore and the sullen, droopy eyes of Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic are monogrammed in most people’s minds (Murray’s expression, coupled with his ski cap, looked like that of a melting candle with a cherry red flame enveloping its wick).

In Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson gives his fans what they want: washed out colors, deadpan dialogue, and the venerable hiss of old folk and pop songs against the weathered needle of a phantom record player. The stylistic flourishes become less like touches and more like an evasive airport pat down, however, as Anderson tunes out subtlety in favor of bluntness. Moonrise Kingdom is dressed to the nines in obligatory Anderson style, but there is nothing inside the design, much like a storefront mannequin wrapped in fashionable garb. Where’s the biting dialogue? The snarky thorniness? The daft comic timing?

The film intends to be breezy, careless, quirky, and hungry for snapping wit. In reality players such as the doe-eyed Ed Norton and the gravel-sanded larynx of Bruce Willis do little to seduce the charm of Anderson’s playful, coy, often times lavender wrapped world. Throw in a performance by Frances McDormand that has her do little more than look concerned (a lesser reprisal of her great portrayal of a staunch mother in Almost Famous); an awkward cameo by a deliberately android-looking Tilda Swinton; and an uninteresting performance by Bill Murray (how is that even possible?) and you get a movie that desperately needs to be recast. None of these actors – especially the furrowed brow of Willis – can understand or feel the pulse of Anderson’s world.

The plot deals with the adolescent wanderlust of a young cub scout named Sam (Jared Gilman) and an emotionally frayed young girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward). The two meet, fall in young love, make an exodus away from their families through the thickets and wild shores of the great outdoors. Along the way minimal dialogue is expunged from our protagonists mouths, a few animals get maimed, and Bruce Willis struggles with comic timing as he attempts to lasso the youths back to their families.

Ed Norton is the the cub scout leader, and despite having an innately dumbfounded expression glued to his lid, he does little to brand his screen time with comedy or wit. Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel are the only two actors whom don’t look bullied by confusion over what they’re required to do in the film (this is sad, however, as they aren’t in the film for even a quarter of the feature).

Anderson fanatics will be spellbound by the swiveling cameras, the drab skies and the flecks of humor emitted from some of the film’s characters, but, despite popular belief, Moonrise Kingdom pines to be a perfect film but cant even handle the task of being a perfect Wes Anderson film. The praise, I suspect, is due to the film not being Transformers 3. In which case it gets a big thumbs up. Otherwise it’s Anderson’s The Serpent Egg.

2.5 out of 5

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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