Thursday 31 May 2012

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Year: 2012
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay: Wes Anderson
Starring: Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel

Synopsis is here

I've allowed the dust to settle, and gather my thoughts. I spent a good time contemplating; and yet still, Moonrise Kingdom didn't bring around about the desired effect. I'm not sure why and I doubt what I write will truly sum up my misgivings for the film. But there's something about Wes Anderson's new film that just feels off.

It's not the angst. In fact I enjoy the angst. The quirky longings and frustrations of Anderson's often pompous characters are what draws me to his films. Be it Max's deluded affections for his teacher Miss Cross, or the aquatic antics of Steve Zissou, I've enjoyed the way the characters wear their flaws around them. Yes, the music choices are hipster smart, and the cinematography is set in that pronounced yet gorgeous way, but throughout what I've loved is when I pick apart the exterior of these films, the inside was always affecting and relatable. You grow to love and admire Royal Tenenbaum for all his disgraceful behaviour. He isn't perfect, but he's honest abut it. Most of Wes' characters are.

There is honesty in Moonrise Kingdom, and it stems from it's two carefully picked young leads. Both give such sincere turns, it's hard not to like them. They are the heart of the film, which seems mostly about control. These two have that devil may care attitude that blesses everyone when they meet their first love (or watch John Hughes movies too many times). Such behaviour flies in the face of the adults, who have merely dismissed the children as troubled and try to manage them with coldness as they bother about their own lives. As the two kids run away, the adults scrabble, squabble and fall apart amongst themselves. The roles reverse, the adults slowly discover they may not be able to control everything and these little uns may be able to teach them something about themselves.

For me, the children's world is the most involving. The performances are funny, in that articulated, mannered Anderson way. They carry the movie as far as the can. The problem I had was when I enter the realm of the adults. Their side of the story was, much like their reactions to the missing children: muddled and rushed. When the film moved on to the grown up point of view, I got the feeling of scenes missing. Their side of the narrative felt incomplete and lacking the emotive hit, I'd expect. Characters reached conclusions a tad too easy. It felt as if they was more to be said. An argument to this could be that as the film is mostly told from the point of view of the children, we should expect something like this. However, considering my feelings of the Darjeeling Limited (beautiful but shallow), one feels that Anderson may have mined all he can from certain areas. Quite simply the grown up have the quirks but none of the candidness.

This aside, all the other Anderson tics are apparent. The film is a photographer's dream, with cinematography that will have wannbe-cool blogger hacks like myself reaching for their instagram apps on their phone. For the most part, that dry wit still lands, and while a lot of the more famous cast appear in what  could be considered as cameos for a friend, none of the turns are what you could consider slacking, although a few of them appear to be a bit lost in the fog.

Moonrise will not detract hardcore fans, but then that's why they are hardcore fans. As long as the basic pieces are in place, you can expect many of them to be happy enough. For myself however, who felt Anderson has hit certain peaks with past works, I found myself, much like one of his characters, to be quite wanting. It's a breezy 90 minutes, but compare to some of the stronger films in Anderson's overture, this appears to be lacking.