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Katherine is the Managing Editor at The Hudsucker. She has been working in libraries for the past 10 years and holds a B.A. in American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. In her free time, the Seattleite enjoys writing fiction, going to brunch, taking long walks with her roommate, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends. Katherine is a huge fan of the Seattle Mariners and has probably seen every Marvel movie at least five times. She loves classic rock and can quote even the most obscure lines from The Simpsons. Follow Katherine on Twitter: @thethingiskat.

Wes Anderson Shows Off His Sweet Side with ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s first film since his 2009 stop motion animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, has been getting glowing reviews since it debuted on May 16 at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Anderson co-wrote the film with Roman Coppola, who also co-wrote 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, and fans have been eagerly anticipating it ever since the project was announced. Though the combination of critical praise and high fan expectations can sometimes be disastrous for a movie, Moonrise Kingdom does not disappoint.

Image Credit: Focus Features

Image Credit: Focus Features

The film stars newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky, two 12-year-olds who fall in love and run away together in 1965. In its simplest form, Moonrise Kingdom is a story of young love, but as with all Anderson films, there is much more to it than that. Though the film takes place in the 1960s, many of the struggles the young characters face are similar to those that many children are presently facing. Both Suzy and Sam are seen as outcasts and are viewed unfavorably by their peers and their families, which contributes to them wanting to run away and be with each other. Though their struggles come with Anderson’s familiar twists and quirks, they are still very relatable, adding a layer of poignancy that isn’t always present in Anderson’s previous films.

Moonrise Kingdom plays like most other Wes Anderson films, but there is a bit of innocence to it. Suzy Bishop, for example, has many similarities to Margot Tenenbaum, even down to the dark eye makeup, but Suzy, and the rest of the characters in the film, are able to draw on a sense of hope. While the characters still have an edge, and there are still raw emotional undertones to many of their interactions, the stakes are less life or death than in other Anderson films. There is also a certain amount of sweetness in the film that isn’t really present in Anderson’s other works. The subject matter and the time period really lend themselves to that. Suzy and Sam’s love feels very genuine, and their surroundings and the things they surround themselves with helps give it that feel. Sam is Khaki Scout (Anderson’s version of a Boy Scout) and breaks away from their summer camp to be with Suzy. She steals her brother’s radio and brings along her cat when she leaves to be with him. They write each other love letters. Anderson manages to capture the innocence of young love, though it still comes with his trademark moodiness, but because of their age, they lack the hardness and angst that many of his other characters have.

With Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson continues to show that he knows how to direct actors into giving their best performances. Like many directors, Anderson has a core group of “regulars” who tend to show up in most of his films. However, Moonrise Kingdom is populated by mostly Anderson newcomers with Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman being the only two “regulars” in the film. Frances McDormand and Bill Murray are absolutely fantastic as Suzy’s bickering lawyer parents. Edward Norton gives one of his best performances as Khaki Scout leader Scout Master Ward. Tilda Swinton is brilliant in her brief role as a character just known as Social Services. The biggest surprise, though, is Bruce Willis who gives a wonderfully subtle performance as Captain Sharp, the well-intentioned, albeit somewhat dim, police captain. Willis’s performance is reminiscent of Ben Stiller’s in The Royal Tenenbaums, as both actors aren’t known for their subtlety or dramatic acting skills (and additionally in Willis’s case, comedic acting skills) but both pulled it off in Anderson films, and in both cases, stole parts of the movie. Not enough can be said about Hayward and Gilman’s performances either. It is hard to imagine that it is both of their first movies because of how well they portray two kids in love and essentially carry most of the movie.

It’s hard to talk about Moonrise Kingdom without wanting to praise everything about it. The movie was filmed in Rhode Island, and the setting and scenery are absolutely gorgeous. The colors are autumnal and very distinctly Anderson. The characters wear his trademark costumes, with Sam’s Khaki Scout uniform being the most interesting and memorable. Most of the music in the film is by English composer Benjamin Britten, which fits the mood and feeling of the movie perfectly.

Wes Anderson is one of those directors that people tend to either love or hate, and though Moonrise Kingdom is still very much an Anderson film, there are enough differences from his other works that those who are on the fence about him should definitely give this movie a try. It is still enough of an Anderson movie that those who love his works will probably love this too, and it is probably not going to convert his toughest critics either. But aside from Fantastic Mr. Fox, this film probably has the broadest appeal of any of his movies. Whether you’re a fan, a critic or someone who has never seen a Wes Anderson film before, Moonrise Kingdom is an interesting and sweet look at young love and is definitely worth checking out.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Hudsucker Takes on the Oscars: Predictions, Hopes and Snubs | The Hudsucker - April 4, 2013

    […] Katherine says: “Moonrise Kingdom is one of Wes Anderson’s best films and is definitely deserving of a Best Picture nomination. At its heart it’s very much a “Wes Anderson film” but has enough of a mainstream feel to appeal to those who normally don’t like his films. As always, Anderson gets the exceptional performances out of his cast including those by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman. Though I believe he deserved a nomination for The Royal Tenenbaums as well as some of his other films, Moonrise Kingdom is one of his best – a sweet tale of young that everyone can enjoy.” (Read Katherine’s review of Moonrise Kingdom here.) […]

  2. 14 Romantic (And Guy Friendly) Films for Valentine’s Day | The Hudsucker - February 14, 2014

    […] films are beloved by many. Best described as an “eccentric pubescent love story,” Moonrise Kingdom is a quirky, modern day version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Set in […]

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