Wes Anderson is definitely an interesting director. And a very difficult one to review. He has this knack for taking pretty basic stories and plots and making them extraordinary and surreal through the use of clever writing and very quirky characters. Some of his films have stories that are more out there than others. The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums come to mind. Moonrise Kingdom moves more to the other end of the surrealism spectrum. It has a premise that seems quite plausible and there’s only a few instances where you really feel like what just happened couldn’t in real life. Two misunderstood kids fall in “love” and decide to run off together. The only problem is, they’re on an island and really have no place to go. Anderson took that and put it into the hands of a perfectly cast group of actors and came up with a movie that is quirkily funny and heartwarming at the same time. And, when you’re done, you have that signature “what the hell just happened” feeling that is prevalent at the end of all of his movies. But that isn’t a bad thing. While the viewer usually feels like that, they also feel very happy for having witnessed the film. It’s a hard feeling to describe in words. You just have to watch the movie. You’ll either get it or you won’t.
I mentioned a perfectly cast group of actors. This is just that. Ed Norton is fantastic as the in over his head scout master. Bruce Willis is strong as the island police officer. Normally, Willis takes his comedic roles a bit too far. I don’t know if it was good directing or just the surrealism of the movie but Willis reined it in and did a good job. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play supporting roles and keep it limited to that. It would have been easy for any of them to dominate. But they let the movie focus on Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the two runaways. And both of them deliver. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gilman became an Anderson mainstay like the Wilsons or Jason Schwartzman. Anderson’s movies can sometimes be overwhelmed by the deadpan acting of everyone but it never took centre stage in Moonrise Kingdom. I was a bit disappointed that neither of the Wilson brothers made an appearance but they can’t be in everything Anderson does.
See it. You’ll either love it or hate it. But you can’t take someone else’s word on a Wes Anderson film. You have to see it and decide for yourself.