June 4, 2012

Review: The Magic of Wes Anderson – 'Moonrise Kingdom'

From the first few moments of Moonrise Kingdom, you can tell this is writer/director Wes Anderson at his very best, embracing his own sensibilities to the fullest extent. His distinct voice and style permeate the screen. The French pop songs, painted look, and meticulous set dressing make the film an absolutely delightful, wonderfully cinematic childhood experience.

It's refreshing to see Anderson, often criticized for his trademark quirkiness and stylistic flourishes, indulging in his own recognizable aesthetics back in live-action after the intrepid fun of stop motion animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson and company embrace the wistful nature, twee, quirk, and happenstance of his filmmaking to its extreme with positive results.

The young romance between troubled 12-year-olds runaways Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward is so sweet, underplayed, and innocent. It wells your heart. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton both superbly play against type as the quietly sad, small-town sheriff and overly earnest, deadpan scoutmaster. The film juxtaposes the troubled kids with the equally troubled adults nicely. Anderson stalwart Bill Murray is magnetic as the dour, broken down father.

Easily his best live-action work since The Royal Tenenbaums, also with a large ensemble cast, and recalling his work with young actors in Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom develops a wholly realized, enjoyable little world within its fictional New England remote island setting. The film is pure Wes Anderson fun with all his notable whimsy and cues. Whereas in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or The Darjeeling Limited, may be considered Anderson's lesser work, it's easy to relate and care about the characters we follow here.

Moonrise Kingdom drips with nostalgia from its idyllic 1965 setting as a natural evolution of Anderson's previous works. The strong cinematography and camerawork is so deliberate and thoughtfully laboured over (akin to his animation work). It's clear from Fantastic Mr. Fox and this film that Anderson benefits from embracing childhood ideals and motivations. The film's lack of irony and cynicism is refreshing and honest, bleeding into the adult characters.

Full of romanticism and unforgettable adventure, Moonrise Kingdom is an artfully crafted, fun childhood adventure, told with incredible vision and artistry. Wes Anderson proves again his cinematic weight, embracing all his tendencies and style to accomplish a very specific vision and timeless story. It's hard not to enjoy this storybook brought to life.

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