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Anderson’s theatrical campiness continues with ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

Dylan Dobson, 4Play Editor
November 7, 2012
Filed under 4Play

Wes Anderson is known for his pretentious and stylized films that pit dead pan and anachronistic youths against the harsh condition of a society that doesn’t understand them. This motif may annoy the masses, but reviewers have long applauded the director.

Anderson’s newest film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” is likely to continue on the precedence his films have set by polarizing audiences.

The film follows two outcast preteen lovers. Sam Shakusky is an orphan trying and failing to create a sense of belonging by way of scouting. His fellow Khaki Scouts neither like nor respect him. Despite his unquestionable scouting skills, he is constantly made fun of.

Suzy Bishop is a girl bored with her overbearing parents – played here by an uncaring Bill Murray and a supportive and apologetic Frances McDormand – and the other unresponsive adults that seem to dictate her existence. She is demoted in her church pageant due to her rebellious attitude and struggles with the knowledge that her mother is having an affair.

After fatefully meeting at a performance of Suzy’s pageant, the two children decide to run away together. However, they are tracked down by Sam’s troop, – led by a dedicated scout leader portrayed by Edward Norton – as well as police Captain Sharp, portrayed by Bruce Willis.

“Moon Rise Kingdom” follows the tradition of classic romance stories such as “Romeo and Juliet,” showing the lengths people are willing to go to for the  right to romance. Sam and Suzy wish desperately to be loved and cling to each other.

Considering the subject matter, the film explores some extremely uncomfortable and shocking ideas. There is a moment of youthful sexual tension that some viewers may find inappropriate, though it is presented in a subtle way. The climax is similarly sure to raise a brow or two with its inclusion of youth suicide, further playing on tropes established in “Romeo and Juliet.”

The film also focuses on the lives of the adults who interact with the children and eventually lead them to run away. While the children struggle to run from adulthood and the society that insists on its necessity, these adults struggle with the realities adulthood is making them face. It seems each of these adult characters is trying to avoid reality, until their shared responsibility in the fate of Sam is raised by a Social Services representative ,played by Tilda Swinton.

“Moonrise Kingdom,” like all of Anderson’s previous films, is overflowing with capable actors. Murray, Willis, Norton, McDormand and Swinton all provide solid grounding to the otherwise exaggerated and childish performances.

The film’s sets look less like actual locations and more like backdrops for a church pageant. This is ironic seeing as one of the film’s most important set pieces is, in fact, an extremely elaborate church pageant, which, upon second glance, looks much more sophisticated than the film’s sets.

Attention to detail in his films is one of the things Anderson often receives praise for, and “Moonrise Kingdom” is no different. Each of the film’s locations and props has been lovingly crafted and stylized in such a way that the film’s universe seems to exist in a pop-up book. Those familiar with his previous films, including “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” will notice Anderson’s use of Futura font and hand-stitched fabrics, as well as other signature elements the director usually uses as his visual calling cards.

French composer Alexandre Desplat provides a breathtaking score that perfectly accentuates the quirky mood and playful childishness of the film’s plot and setting. Exaggerated brass sounds and the shimmer of bells accompany ballpark organs and wailing choral vocals. The end result is a powerful nostalgia that will drag the most cynical and adult of viewers into the film’s youthful cheer.

Those who have not yet tired of Anderson’s signature directorial style, or of his plain and dreary scripts, will find delight in the quirky yarn “Moonrise Kingdom” spins. The film’s appearance is as charming as it is overtly artistic, and the coming-of-age story it presents is as close to a crowd-pleaser as the eccentric director has ever come. Viewers will find “Moonrise Kingdom” to be a satisfying hour-and-a-half escape.