Review: Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

Still from the movie Moonrise Kingdom

I know there are people out there who don’t like Wes Anderson movies, but, really, who are these people? I guess I can picture them in my head, and they’re all quite normal. Too normal. What can I say? It hurts my heart that they don’t appreciate the zany worlds he creates, so utterly odd and charming.

Moonrise Kingdom contains another such world. I am reminded of one reviewer’s comment that the film Frank (which we saw at Sundance) seems filled with escapees from a Wes Anderson movie. But that doesn’t do Anderson justice, I think, because the characters in Frank are purposely and inexplicably off-putting and unlikable (and a little hysterical, too), and much the sadder for them that they’re trapped in our normal, slightly cynical, often mean-spirited world, whereas Anderson’s worlds are themselves bizarre, and so of course their inhabitants are, too. His worlds stand alone, existing quietly, and it is as if we, the audience, are lucky enough to have been transplanted there, to his magical (er, moonrise) kingdom.

In this film, Anderson continues to explore the theme of questing pictured in both The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited (and perhaps others of his films I haven’t yet seen), though <spoiler alert>with a smaller body count</spoiler alert>. There are some beautiful moments between Frances McDormond and Kara Hayward, who plays her daughter Suzy, and some searing ones between Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. These latter are as ambiguous and inconclusive and resigned as moments of emotional truths usually are in Anderson films.

Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton are all wonderful, and of course you can’t have a Wes Anderson movie without at least a small appearance by Jason Schwartzman (though where did he disappear to in The Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic?), but it was the children who stole the show. Was their acting a little stiff and peculiar, reminiscent of the child actors in Mad Men (as my husband pointed out)? Perhaps, but–delight of all delights–wasn’t it supposed to be? They are as fiercely deadpan in their unsteady, childish voices as are any of the grown-ups. Anderson reminds me of that screwy uncle who’s always joking around with a serious face and will never, never admit to kidding, even when you beg him to. It’s a code. Of honor. He also reminds me of a friend from high school, Christopher Benshoof. (I know you’re out there in Alaska somewhere, Benshoof. Reveal yourself.)

Of course, now that The Grand Budapest Hotel is out, Moonrise Kingdom is old news. Double feature, anyone?

Note: Am I twee and didn’t even know it?

Instead of a preview, I leave you with a short (apparently they don’t like it embedded, so you’ll have to click to watch it on the actual YouTube website):