Moonrise Kingdom

★★★★★★★★★★   A+++++++

Directed by Wes Anderson

Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Jared Gilman: Sam Shakusky

Kara Hayward: Suzy Bishop

Bruce Willis: Captain Sharp

Edward Norton: Scout Master Ward

Bill Murray: Walt Bishop

Frances McDormand: Laura Bishop

Tilda Swinton: Social Services

Jason Schwartzman: Cousin Ben

Bob Balaban: Narrator

Harvey Keitel: Commander Pierce

Original Score by Alexandre Desplat


So…this movie is amazing! There is a reason I gave it more than the maximum number of stars.

The story centers around the life of 12-year old girl, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), and a Khaki scout of the same age, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman). They are two misfits on an island of misfits who fall hopelessly in love for one reason or another.

Sam Shakusky is a member of a group of Khaki scouts, but he is “the most unpopular scout…by a significant margin.” Their troop is led by the lovable but utterly irresponsiple Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). Meanwhile Suzy and her whole messed up family just kind of live from day to day.

Bob Balaban plays this semi-transient narrator who introduces the island as a picture-perfect one. Therefore, it is a true shock when they discover that Sam – who we don’t meet until at least 15-20 minutes in to the film – has mysteriously vanished. It is an equal shock that he is an orphan as it is not on any of his files and that his foster parents don’t want him back. Now he and Suzy run off an a magical adventure full of lightning bolts (pure Caddyshack craziness), murderous scissors (one of the film’s most starkly mad scenes), French dance music, cat food, Noye’s Fuddle, and, of course, Moonrise Kingdom.

Meanwhile, police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Mr. (Bill Murray) and Mrs. (Frances McDormand) Bishop and a woman we only know as Social Services (Tilda Swinton (“Hold on, Social Services!”)) are trying to catch them. Furthermore, Bob Balaban’s narrator warned us a well documented storm that will impact in three days time and helps them track down Sam Shuckusky to a near-tidal inlet where the Old Chickchaw tribes migrated.

However, it is not a search-and-rescue movie. It is an absurd story of love. Be it that Sam pierces her ears with fishhooks (blood certainly appeaing) (“Do the other one.”) or  painting nude watercolors of eachother, these 12-year olds consider themselves husband and wife and…somehow…we fall for it! I don’t know how…but we do. And we love every minute of it! Their first kiss whivh eventually gets Sam Shakusky much farther than I thought Anderson would dare to have them go (I can’t reveal those lines!) is a magically awkward moment that is as true to life as ever. Except for the fact that we’ll never know. This is the first time that either of these children have ever been attracted to another human being and, unlike in the normal world where we choose not to act on every ill-thought-through action that leaps into our heads, they do! It’s the perfect what if scenario!

The acting is so phenomenal and I can honestly say that – along with Jack Black in Bernie, Paul Dano in Being Flynn, and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games – newcomer Kara Hayward is the only person I’ve seen this far give an Oscar-worthy performance! In one scene where Mrs. Bishop was bathing her, she reminded me so much of the voice performance that Anderson-regular, Jason Schwartzman, gave in 2009’s animated masterpiece Fantastic Mr. Fox (which was robbed a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination) as Fox’s son, Ash. Jared Gilman is not far behind, either. Furthermore, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton give some of the best performances of their careers. Bill Murray gave a phenomenal performance as well. Frances McDormand did a great job, however, she did not seem quite as comfortable in Wes Anderson’s world. Tilda Swinton’s performance is one that I have seen many times before, but never in a good movie; rather, it seems like she is only slightly more complex than Glen Close’s Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians (1996). Normally, that’s a bad thing, but here, it was perfect. Jason Schwartzman, who played Cousin Ben, the cousin of one of Sam’s scout mates, who works at the canteen at the Khaki Scout hullabaloo at their main base, was hilarious. It is so obvious that he and Anderson are the best of friends and enjoy making movies together. Bob Balaban was weird and eccentric and utterly vague; in other words, great job! Lastly, Harvey Keitel played a bumbling, grumbling Scout Commander named [Commander] Pierce. I don’t know what happened to this man’s carreer that hee would have to sink to this type of a part (its not a financial thing, nor is it a part that he would actually want to play…); he did a good job none the less.

Murray and Schwartzman are the only Anderson regulars in the film; however, it seems as though Swinton is eager to work with him again and Edward Norton fit in so perfectly and with such genuine enthusiasm, I would be shocked to discover he won’t be appearing in another of Anderson’s films. They were pen pals for over a year before they even met, for God’s sake! That’s longer than Sam and Suzy were pen pals! Despite the fantastic job that Bruce Willis did in this film, I must admit with some sadness, I doubt the two of them will work on a project anytime in the near future for more than a coincidental cameo role.

This film also had a few mysterious absences though. Most notably, this is the first time ever that Owen Wilson was not involved. (Owen Wilson co-wrote Bottle Rocket (both the 1994 short (in college) and the 1996 full length film), Rushmore (1998), and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), for which received an Academy award nomination for Best Original Screenplay with Anderson. In addition, he starred as Dignan (the lead) in the Bottle Rocket films which started his career; appeared as an actor in Supporting Roles Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), and Fantastic Mr. Fox; starred as one of three leads (with Schwartzman and Adrian Brody) in The Darjeerling Limited; and was an executive producer for Rushmore and Tenenmaums.) The film also didn’t feature either of Owen’s brothers, Andrew (Bottle Rocket (feature), Rushmore, and Tenenmaums) or Luke (Both Bottle Rockets, Rushmore, and Tenenmaums); Angelica Huston (Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic, and Darjeeling).  Also, I thought that  either Wes or  his brother, Eric would make an appearance; though Wes is certainly not an actor, he did go uncredited as a voice in Tenenbaums and played the supporting role of weasel in Fox very well. Eric (Eric Chase Anderson) on the other hand, has appeared in small roles in Rushmore,  Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic before taking everybody by surprise by playing one of the largest roles in Fox as Kristofferson Silverfox opposite Schwartzman.

The writing was so funny and magical, I don’t truly believe I can do it justice. What I can talk about though is the work of Robert Yeoman who has done the cinematography on every movie since Bottle Rocket, save Fox. It is amazing. Appearently, making Fox changed Anderson profoundly. Even though he is commonly referred to as being the most meticulous filmmaker since Stanley Kubrick, he had never storyboarded before unless it was for a particularly difficult shot. Due to the time consuming nature of stop-motion animation, he had to have nine sets running at a time, so naturally he couldn’t be on every set all the time, but Anderson leaned quickly how to adapt and storyboarded 80% of the material himself. Then, he bought himself a Canon 7-D and a Flip Video Camera so that he could actually play every single role himself to couple with the already semi-filmed live-action stuff he filmed with some of the film’s largest stars so he could get give his animators the most human movement possible. Apparently, he carried over this pre-planning on to the live-action set of Moonrise Kingdom.  The use of the dolly is perfect and measured despite the fact that it means having to essentially do the entire scene in a single take!

Lastly, the music was truly fantastic. I should know. I have the album. It is chocked full of Benjamin Britten and features Hank Williams and Françoise Hardy, as well as the score for the Khaki Scouts of America, written by Anderson’s pre-Fox composer, Mark Mothersbaugh in the track Camp Ivanhoe Cadence Medley. Unlike on Fox, where composer Alexandre Desplat composed well over an hour of material which had to be put on two discs (one for the official soundtrack, and another for his additional music), here Desplat only wrote four songs: The Heroic Weather – Conditions of the Universe: Parts 1-7 (Part 1: A Veiled Mist; Part 2: Smoke/Fire; Part 3: The Salt Air; Parts 4-6: Thunder, Lightning, and Rain; and Part 7: After the Storm). Despite the fact that they are short, they leave an impact and they are not at all obvious for the situation. Furthermore, if you don’t fully appreciate how hard it is to write film music, just listen to Part 7: After the Storm, where they deconstruct Desplat’s music as they do in multiple points in the film with Leonard Bernstein thanks to Benjamin Britten (track 1: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34: Themes A – F.)

2 Responses to Moonrise Kingdom

  1. Pingback: Moonrise Kingdom, a classic Wes Anderson film. « cinemashadow

  2. Pingback: Moonrise Kingdom « cinemashadow

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