Release: 18th November 2019
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down.
The elusive concept of a bad Wes Anderson film is arguably most visible in his 2007 ho-hum entry of The Darjeeling Limited. But calling a Wes Anderson film bad, is like saying Eyes Wide Shut is the least brilliant Stanley Kubrick film; you’re splitting hairs to justify the statement. With that in mind, when I say that Moonrise Kingdom is in the category of bad Anderson films, you should have an indication that this means in comparison to his other work, rather than in comparison to cinema in general. In truth, it would be fairer to label it ‘less engaging.’
Set in the whimsical town of New Penzance, Moonrise Kingdom is every bit a young boy’s elaborate fantasies of ‘running away’ with the girl of his dreams. It is a Romeo and Juliet tale told from the perspective of an awkward and quietly confident young Khaki Scout somehow conscious of and mildly linked with the hip vibe of 1960’s Italian culture. This is, of course, filtered through Anderson’s notoriously gorgeous dollhouse aesthetic; which is possibly one of the main reasons why the film doesn’t fully land. When you have a fantastical story set in an already fantastical world, the lines are blurred, and it is hard to appreciate what comes from Sam’s desires and what comes from reality. It dulls the core of Sam’s journey and serves to make the experience feel more…. dare I say…. boring.
But this is really the only substantial quibble one might have with the film, as outside of this, Moonrise Kingdom is your usual grade of Anderson experience. It is stunning to behold (especially in this presentation), has a killer soundtrack, some artfully pitched performances, a deliciously abrupt and impolite comedy, and a cast list to die for.
Technically, this is possibly one of the few times you are likely to catch Anderson with a handheld camera; which in and of itself makes Moonrise Kingdom something special. And there is something about the tone and characters that makes this feel somewhat like a spiritual prequal to The Royal Tenenbaums; which also earns it default bonus points. But on the whole, despite this having the air of a much more self-conscious outing for the director (maybe, due in part, to its semi-autobiographical nature), Moonrise Kingdom paved the way for Anderson’s next and possibly greatest achievement, The Grand Budapest Hotel. So although Moonrise Kingdom is destined to always feature at 5th place and below in any Anderson fan’s list, it will always be remembered fondly.
Film Grade (Theatrical): B
So many great little behind-the-scenes snippets and a purpose made directors commentary. This is not your usual Criterion package in that its focus is more on the experiences of the filmmaker rather than provide an academic study from 3rd parties.
Special Features Grade: B
This has a ‘little engine that could’-vibe as the ‘small art movie’ entry in Anderson’s ‘blockbuster’ career.