Home > Movies, Reviews (Movies) > Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

It’s not right to call Wes Anderson ‘shameless.’ For what should he feel shame? It’s not right to call him ‘fearless’ either,  as every filmmaker has their fears. The same people who condemn his signature are the ones who mourn the end of cinema. He’s one of the few working auteurs with an undeniable personal stamp. Even his commercials are littered with splashes of color coordination. [Not too bright, of course.] Probably the right way to articulate Anderson’s joie de cinema is ‘earnest.’ It’s surprising that in a universe of such total fabrication an audience might be allowed to see honesty. Or at least to see a picture of what an artist demands. Moonrise Kingdom isn’t made of truth. It’s a dream. And are dreams anything but honest?

Sam and Suzy are 12 years old and, feeling rejected and feeling love for each other, they run away. It’s an old, boring story that’s been told often enough. Instead of expelling the inherent nostalgia and pretense, Anderson uses it as a fountain. We all go to the movies for the same reasons that these heroes ran away and he knows that. The feelings experienced by Sam and Suzy aren’t condemned as lost childhood fantasies or false purities, they’re very honest and forthright presentations of those naked emotions. I had my first kiss at 12 and it was every bit as awkwardly plotted and arranged as theirs. Indeed, that love scene on the beach – waves surging in and out – is as inspired as any encounter in my memory. Anderson is ideally suited to work with children. His style has often been characterized as having childish whimsy – a point with which it is difficult to argue. But Moonrise Kingdom is imbued with a marriage between style and subject that has avoided the rest of his work [save for perhaps Rushmore].

Stylistically, there is little new to report. The camera is still obsessed with defeating physics, passing through walls, etc. The entire opening sequence inside of the Bishop household will look incredibly familiar to anyone with an Anderson memory. These intensely choreographed tracking shots do more than reveal setting, they add a level of coherence to these habitats. It can’t be a mistake that these shots make Anderson’s structures look like an ant farm. They’re an extension of a larger trend in his work – allowing the camera to assume impossible positions. In a tender scene between Sam and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the camera takes the place of a wall that has been made very visible. Anderson has no patent on the idea, but he does it with more awareness and intimacy that anyone else. Also, Moonrise Kingdom is the most camera-conscious film by Anderson, not least represented by the ubiquitous/mysterious travel-guide narrator. The only stylistic addition seems to be a more frequent handheld camera. I can recall brief handheld work in Life AquaticTenenbaums, and Bottle Rocket, but nothing as extensive as we see here. The woods might have suggested a more unruly and unmeasured visual approach which works marvelously, juxtaposed with the stable, ultra-tight close-ups with which conversation is delivered.

The island of New Penzance is another perfect playground for Anderson’s obsessions. Sam and Suzy create their own place for dreaming and it is no wonder that Anderson requires the same. By pairing an island environment with a period setting, we begin to see the full stylistic potential of Wes Anderson. The more he is able to separate himself from reality, the closer he comes to finding something honest.

There is a spiritual dimension to Moonrise Kingdom that has been avoided in previous Anderson efforts. The union between these children is not only affirmed by the film, but made sacred. In addition, the ghost of Noah both haunts and blesses every corner of the film, full of the Old Testament’s fate. Sam and Suzy meet backstage at a production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde (Noah’s Flood). After, the film makes no effort to distance itself from the story. Sam and Suzy’s most transcendent partnership, even after their sexualization and marriage, is when they are finally dressed as the same animal, still running away from everything. Anderson understands that the love between these two isn’t merely real, but necessary for the health of his own universe. If we’re going to keep having Wes Anderson movies, they need to procreate, right? It’s a beautiful affirmation of those feelings that we all remember and frequently consider – wondering if they were real.

Even if someone is boring enough to reject this film, Anderson should be celebrated for creating a world where Benjamin Britten and Hank Williams can coexist so harmoniously. It is that earnest presentation of his dreams that make it so inhabitable, if only for a while. In addition, the ensemble cast is at the very least adequate. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand share a remarkable moment – “We’re all they’ve got, Walt.” “It’s not enough.” Edward Norton and Bruce Willis are made, through Anderson’s signature deadpan, to be even more emotive in moments of heroism.

There are two “Moonrise Kingdom”‘s — the film itself and the paradise established by our heroes. But aren’t they the same thing in the end? Anderson has pitched camp for his own creative excess. Like Sam and Suzy, running away from the same thing every rejected kid tries to escape, he made his own kingdom and ruled over it for 90 minutes. Nostalgia, false hopes, and pretension aren’t pushed away, but invited in to play. Nothing is above or below Anderson’s radar, save for reality, perhaps. Let’s pray that Anderson never leaves his island and his dreams, but continues to export his work as often as possible.


  1. Momz
    June 25, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    You know I , of all people, did not see this but, indeed have seen the commercial for it a billion times at least playing during one of one of my mindless shows and, every time I say to myself, two simple words “Matt movie”. And you know every Saturday I read a particular writers column in the paper…when, for whatever reason she doesn’t write I miss her…I can totally relate to every single thing she says and I would love to tell her but then I think it would break some sort of a secret bond we have between us…so secret that she doesn’t even know about it!!!
    My point is, if there truly is one, every one should let Anderson be Anderson,please write forever, it is like stitches on silk. most important I am your mom and I love you always…goodnight my friend

  1. December 20, 2012 at 4:51 PM

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