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“I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Wes Anderson is perhaps one of the most distinctive directors of our time. Besides Tim Burton I can’t name a director that is currently making films whose visual style is as instantly recognizable as Wes Anderson’s. However, unlike Tim Burton, Anderson, it seems, has hit his stride. Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson’s latest movie, and follows what was arguably his most widely acclaimed work to date (Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009). Anderson’s previous films had all dealt with adult situations and issues, while Fantastic Mr. Fox successfully blended his whimsical style with something more universal to the age spectrum. Moonrise Kingdom continues with this formula. The film does touch on more mature subject matter, but it’s heart is a child-like sense of adventurism and search for belonging.
Besides the more cheerful subject matter, Anderson also chooses to use other aspects of Fantastic Mr. Fox in his latest film. First of all, although the film is live-action where as Mr. Fox was animated, Moonrise Kingdom never feels like it is one pastel-colored overlay away from becoming an animated feature itself. Not only is this style consistent with Anderson’s fascination with the whimsy, but it also fits hand-in-hand with the more cheerful story. Second, Anderson seems to have ported the camera movements and angles he used in Fantastic Mr. Fox right into this new film. The result is a very dynamic movie and illustrates Anderson’s skills as a director not only in the visuals department, but also in the more technical aspects of film-making.
Altogether, Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most innovative movies I have seen in a long time despite the fact that Anderson is not really doing anything radically different than what he had been doing before. It just happens that the artistic aspects that he has been experimenting with on his previous movies have now been fully developed and can be applied to a story where they make sense. Anderson tricks the audience into seeing the story from the eyes of a child, and in doing so, his work comes alive in a way that just didn’t happen before.
Story: Sam is an orphaned boy who doesn’t make many friends. One day he meets a girl named Suzy, who has problems of her own. Together they make a plan to run away, images of romance and grandeur racing through their heads. Their plans go off without a hitch, except for the fact that reality and the problems associated with it are still there, waiting to be dealt with…Good (22/25)
Acting: Newcomers Jared Gilman, and Kara Hayward play Sam and Suzy. Their relationship is as awkward as any other adolescent relationship you’d come across, but Gilman’s wit and Hayward’s strength keep the story alive. Bruce Willis is at his most downtrodden as a police officer, but managed to make the character likable. I think the standout is Edward Norton, who fits well into the roll of Sam’s scout master. Norton seems comfortable in the roll and makes the character’s struggles in dealing with teenage boys quite enjoyable to watch. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play Suzy’s tightly strung lawyer parents, and even if their roles and relationships aren’t completely defined, they are nonetheless quite good. As is the rest of the cast, which includes a few other big-name actors in supporting roles. Good (22/25)
Direction: This movie is the perfect example of Anderson’s style as a director. Sweet but sad, colorful but washed out, simple but intricate in the details. He seems to have learned a lot about camera movement after working on Fantastic Mr. Fox and puts it to good use here. The movie is full of interesting transitions, angles, and establishing shots that paint the action in an almost cartoonish manner. Combined with way that he handles the story and the narration, the movie feels like it is full of energy and fresh. The audience is not just along for the ride, they are exploring themselves. Great (25/25)
Special Effects/X-Factor: The visuals of this film are nothing that you haven’t seen before from Wes Anderson, and in reality they don’t really look that great. But that is the point. Anderson’s films are meant to feel like they are taking place in a diorama, carefully constructed to illustrate a point. It’s actually quite a refreshing technique and adds an artistry that just can’t be found anywhere else. The fact that this film illustrates Anderson’s vision and artistry better than any of his previous films makes it that much more important, even if it isn’t all that unexpected. Good (24/25)
Rating: (93/100) = A (A Historical Achievement)
- What’s Good: The pieces all seem to fall into place for director Wes Anderson, his newest film is an excellent showcase of his talents at crafting an artistic vision. The cast does its part to fill the thrilling story with colorful characters as the film finds the perfect balance between the freedoms of youth and the boundaries that grow with age.
- What’s Bad: Anderson’s whimsical style will not appeal to everyone, and despite being Anderson’s most well-rounded film, it doesn’t stray too far from the formula that he has used on previous films.
Summary: Wes Anderson’s most defining work to date.
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Rated: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
My previous review: Rated: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)