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MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom - Cover'The Criterion Collection' have recently released a digitally enhanced version of ’Moonrise Kingdom’. It was directed by Wes Anderson; it starred Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Jared Gilman, and Kara Hayward; and it lasts for 94-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with a behind-the-scenes documentary, the original theatrical trailer, audition footage, interviews with the cast and crew, audio commentary, and much, much more. Please enjoy.


Moonrise Kingdom [The Criterion Collection]


THE STORY:
Hello? Is anybody there? Come on, Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward)! I know the two of you are out there, lurking within the wilderness, because your nearest and dearest have told me that you’re nowhere to be found! Not since you both disappeared from your familiar surroundings.

You, Suzy, you’ve run away from your Mum and Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), who are both worried sick about you and your rather erratic behavior. And as for you, Sam? Well, in your case, you don’t have a Mum and Dad to run away from! But what you do have is a concerned Scout Master, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), and he's in charge of the group you’ve quit so you can be with your lovely girlfriend. 

So come on, you two, stop messing about and reveal yourselves right now. Otherwise, what next transpires may go, boom-stab-click, when I say to myself, ‘Captain Sharp? (Bruce Willis) I think I can hear a storm brewing?’. As a couple of kids are finally found - an act of infidelity doesn’t make a sound - the thought of true love can never be bound - and at the end of the day, please remember, what goes up must one-day hit the ground.




THE REVIEW: 
'Moonrise Kingdom' is a film made by Wes Anderson, and as such, features a number of things you’d normally expect to see from a regular Wes Anderson film. This includes things like an appearance by Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman (check), a soundtrack that’s both anthemic and easy to listen to (check), and a shooting style that’s one part Art Deco, one part sterile, and one part avant-garde (check, and mate). But more importantly than that, dear reader, a regular Wes Anderson film always tries its best to sneak in a message that’s somehow relatable. The same message, I hasten to add, that Wes has constantly inserted into many of his movies, ranging from ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ all the way to ’The Darjeeling Limited’, which is basically about finding a family of your own when you can’t relate to the one you’re born into. 

Moonrise Kingdom - Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward
Well, let’s face it, we can always choose our friends but we can’t always choose our relatives. Although, in this case, the people who are doing the choosing are children, two 13-year-old children, to be more precise, named Sam and Suzy, who’ve both broken away from their everyday existence so they can live together in relative harmony. Hopefully. Fingers crossed. Touch wood! Until their escape eventually attracts the attention of their respective guardians, wink-wink, who then take it upon themselves to track them down before a monsoon hits the island where they all live. 

So, as you can see, from a narrative standpoint, this film is a fairly straightforward film and not too difficult to follow. In fact, it’s so simple to follow, you could almost say that it was naive in places, bordering on the superficial, especially when you take into consideration that certain subplots were blatantly glossed over, while certain characters didn’t have enough depth or substance. For instance, in one scene, we’re presented with a scenario where the two kids are encouraged to talk to each other about their need to get married. Which they do, up to a point, although we don’t actually hear what they have to say due to the idol distraction of a kid jumping on a trampoline nearby. Whereas, in another scene, we find out that the local policeman is having an affair with Suzy’s Mum behind her Dad’s back. But, for some strange reason, their affair isn’t expanded upon or fully resolved! It just hangs there, sitting in the background, for the sake of parental discord.


Moonrise Kingdom - The Cast


Although, in stark contrast to all of this negativity, there were some positive aspects associated with this adventure as well. Not only because the sets were beautifully designed and the choreography elegantly composed, but in addition to this, the overall production had heart, real heart, on account of the love story it was trying to tell. Now at first, this wasn’t totally apparent due to the stiff acting style and the notably naive narrative. But as time ticked on, things became clearer because the motivations of the two main characters slowly emerged in a very understated fashion. After all, Sam is an angry orphan with no friends he can talk to, Suzy is an angry bookworm with no real personal attachment to the world around her, and together, the two of them are looking for love, true love, within a sterile and barren landscape. 

Moonrise Kingdom - Tilda SwintonAnyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now I think we should all sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘Focus Features’ first released this production at the 'Cannes Film Festival' on the exact same day some Americans celebrated, ‘National Mimosa Day’. It was on the 16th of May, 2012. (2) In an interview he gave to the press, Wes Anderson said that he based this film on a fantasy he would have liked to have had as a twelve-year-old boy... a fantasy that would have taken over his reality because it was based on love. ‘It would be like being underwater’, he said, ’everything is different’. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled ‘Moon Lovers’ in Poland, ‘Adventures Under the Moonlight’ in Romania, and ‘The Love of the Moon’ in Greece. (4) To some extent, this film boasts a number of firsts, as it was the first time Wes Anderson made a film without his frequent collaborator, Owen Wilson, it was the first time Bill Murray had to teach a fellow actor how to tie a necktie, Jared Gilman, and it was the first time two of the cast ever saw a typewriter, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, which amused Frances McDormand greatly. (5) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the American state of Rhode Island. This includes Fort Wetherill State Park, Newport, Yawgoog Scout Reservation, Jamestown, Narragansett Bay, Bayfield Farm, Tiverton, Long Pond, Trinity Episcopal Church, Watch Hill, and Stepstone Falls. (6) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, ‘A tormenting and surprising story of children and adults during the stormy days of the summer of 1965’. (7) After this movie moaned at the moon, Kara was allowed to keep the kitten owned by her character, Suzy, while Jared was allowed to keep the backpack owned by his character, Sam. (8) At the end of the film, you will notice a small dedication located at the corner of the screen "For Juman". This is a reference to Wes Anderson's girlfriend, Juman Malouf.


Moonrise Kingdom - Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand


In closing my review of ’Moonrise Kingdom’, I’d now like to rank each performance in order of preference. So, at the top of my list, I’d like to select the two actors who appeared on screen the most, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, because Jared played Sam with an impish charm and a roguish quality, while Kara, on the other hand, played Suzy as if she were a pensive Lolita looking for love. Up next, I’d like to single out some of the top-tier actors who played some of the second-tier characters, such as Bruce Willis (Captain Sharp), Edward Norton (Scout Master Ward), Bill Murray (Mr. Bishop), and Frances McDormand (Mrs. Bishop), on account of them being able to play against type in a rather understated way. Too understated, some might say, but rather refreshing nonetheless. And as for the rest of the cast? Well, yeah, they weren’t bad either, as the kids and the three remaining heavy hitters, Tilda Swinton (Social Services), Jason Schwartzman (Cousin Ben), and Harvey Keitel (Commander Pierce), each gave fairly cartoonish performances that synchronized somewhat nicely with the style of this story. A picturesque style that kept one foot in reality and the other foot in... in... hmmm? Well, I’m not entirely sure!

Moonrise Kingdom - Harvey Keitel
Maybe the word ‘surrealism’ might be appropriate? Due to the film taking on board avant-garde ideas and psychological motifs! Or better yet, maybe the phrase, ‘the unknown’, would be slightly more satisfying? Due to the story's aloof nature contradicting with its emotional heart! Either way, no matter what I say, at the end of the day this is a Wes Anderson film, and as such, sometimes its overall aesthetic can interfere with the adventure it’s trying to convey. Not always, mind you, but sometimes it can, mainly when more information is required to justify a certain character’s motives or behavior. Apart from that, though, all in all, I'd say that this was a beautifully illustrated adventure where the kids were nice, the adults were sterile, and the visuals overshadowed the plot.

THE RATING: B-

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012) MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012) Reviewed by David Andrews on November 18, 2019 Rating: 5

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