I just went and saw Wes Anderson’s latest on Sunday afternoon. I was not disappointed. Go see this. I’ve always said with Anderson, if you like any of his work you’ll probably like all of it. This one in particular will appeal to Rushmore fans, as that it again deals with precociousness in a very charming way. If you’re like me and you love all his films and find it nearly impossible to rank them, then you’ll also enjoy it.
There are probably too many things I liked about this movie to list here, but here are just a couple. I thought the casting for this movie was right on point, particularly Frances McDormand as Mrs. Bishop, and Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward. Many are celebrating the breakout stars playing the two young lovers (some have are even compared Jared Gilman’s work to Jason Schwartzman’s work in Rushmore), and they were good, but I don’t want to overlook the amazing ensemble of children in this movie. The Khaki Scouts and the three Bishop sons were phenomenal. As usual, Robert Yeoman’s cinematography is perfect. As expected the film is wonderfully colorful and filled with endlessly entertaining period details and cultural references (I think I may have started clapping at the shot including a bottle of Tang). Some of my favorite scenes include the dressing room scene (featured in the trailer, above), the scene between McDormand and Bill Murray in their bedroom, and of course the opening scene at Camp Ivanhoe. I was naturally upset that Anderson decided to kill of Snoopy (Anderson, do you not like dogs? Why do you treat them so badly? Remember the three-legged dog from The Life Aquatic?), but I do love how he dealt with it after the fact (“Was he a good dog?” “Who’s to say,”). Finally, I loved the opening credits and the use of the music lesson tapes enjoyed by the Bishop sons. I personally used to listen to similar tapes in music lessons as a child (I know, I know, my music education may have been a little outdated, what can I say), so I fully appreciated their incorporation.
Of course, not all the press around the film has been positive, some people seem to not like it. An opinion from Rafer Guzmán at Newsday complains, “‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is a film of affectations and poses that mimic emotional depth without achieving it.” I disagree, as Edward Norton pointed out in an interview (see below), with cameos you can be 2-dimensional, but all of these characters have depth. Jason Schwartzman’s character (and maybe even Tilda Swinton’s) was maybe 2-dimensional, but his was really more of a cameo so it was okay. My cousin, who I saw the movie with, complained that he didn’t love that scene. For me, it was a great comedic break in a dramatic part of the movie from a director who doesn’t play into traditional distinctions between genres like “comedy” and “drama” (again, see interviews below). Furthermore, I loved that Schwartzman’s character was so clearly unserious, though he was the only adult to fully accept the seriousness of the two young lovers’ emotions.
The point from Guzmán about mimicking emotional depth is then conceded, but then ignored. In his own words, “That, of course, is exactly what adolescents do.” That is why this movie is so beautiful, it is a very honest depiction of the emotions of childhood. That feeling of not only impassable first love, but also the sense of confidence. Confidence that you are right, that adults just don’t understand and never will. A confidence that is both accurate and inaccurate at the same time. Christopher Orr’s piece from The Atlantic summarily described an essential of Moonrise Kingdom: “With Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson made a kids movie for grownups; with Moonrise Kingdom, he has made a grownup movie about kids.” I’m pretty sure I said that almost word-for-word as soon as I got out of the theatre.
Of course, for me, an across the board Anderson fan, I was bothered by some of Orr’s critique of the rest of Wes’ filmography. Orr did, however, make an interesting statement, “Anderson’s forays into the travails of adulthood—even young-adulthood, as in Tenenbaums and Darjeeling—have never been as moving as his examinations of the triumphs and complications of precocious youth.” I suspect that one’s opinion of Moonrise, and how one ranks his filmography in general, (given that one is a Wes Anderson fan) can be summed up by whether one agrees with this statement, disagree with it, or feels that his description of adulthood and childhood are equally endearing.
For me, the worst part about Moonrise Kingdom is that I now likely have to wait years and years for another Wes Anderson release.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VViqA_WftXM&feature=related]