Director: Wes Anderson
Script: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Cast: Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel
Running time: 94 minutes
It’s safe to say that the films of Wes Anderson have gained significant mainstream traction over the last decade thanks to his foray into family movies with The Fantastic Mr Fox as well as the absolute screwball comedy banger that is The Grand Budapest Hotel. But it’s the film that’s sandwiched between those two that my mind always goes back to, the sweet, whimsical and absolutely bloody charming “coming of age” tale that is Moonrise Kingdom.
Set on the island of New Penzance, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of 12 year old Suzy and her Khaki Scout beau, Sam, as they abscond from their home and scout camp respectively to lead a life in the wilderness. As their parents and carers launch a frantic hunt for the two lovers, secrets begin to surface and a fierce storm begins to brew off the coast of the island.
Moonrise Kingdom is, through and through, a Wes Anderson film. From his very purposeful cinematography, filmed here by frequent collaborator Robert Yeoman, through to the use of colours and sound, Moonrise Kingdom presents a world that is simultaneously relatable and fantastical. Set in the 1960’s, the visual pallette mixes the autumnal browns and greens with the grey motifs of the coastal island the story is set up, juxtaposing it with the brighter pastels of Suzy’s clothing and accoutrements. Everything feels purposeful, like a perfectly laid out canvas.
Moonrise Kingdom is certainly a breezy tale, running at a fairly swift 94 minutes, but it’s full of wonderful characters, from the kids who do a great, if occasionally stilted, job of conveying the deadpan absurdity of Anderson’s dialogue, to a cast of adult actors who are all at the top of their game. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are excellent value as always as Suzy’s parents, while Edward Norton flexes his comedy chops as the hapless Scout Master under the kibosh for losing Sam; it’s Bruce Willis, however, as Police Captain Sharp that undoubtedly steals the show here with a brilliantly understated performance, possibly his best in the last decade. Nestled among ill advised Die Hard sequels and direct to DVD action fodder, Moonrise Kingdom is the kind of film you wish you’d see more of Willis in, given his history as an accomplished comedy actor.
But, as with his visuals, Anderson also builds up a cunningly multilayered story. The innocence of childhood romance and naivety serves as a lead in to an exploration of the complexities of adult relationships and the grey area that lies in between. The adults that chide the children for their recklessness and alleged misunderstanding of romance are themselves embroiled in infidelities and denial, allowing their hypocrisies to show through. Anderson has also never been one to shy away from dark comedy, so there are a few unexpected moments of violence peppered into the narrative, albeit strictly staying within the films 12 rating.
That rating then, and the positioning of the film as a coming of age comedy, makes this a great springboard for teenagers coming off the more family friendly adventures of Mr Fox, allowing them to explore the wonderfully whimsical world of Wes Anderson further. And for adults, it serves as a reminder of the innocence of childhood, the desire to get lost in the woods with your own imagination and the follies of adulthood. An absolutely essential film from a hugely influential director.
- Restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director Wes Anderson, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary featuring Anderson, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola
- Selected-scene storyboard animatics
- Interviews with cast and crew
- Exploring the Set of “Moonrise Kingdom,” an original documentary about the film
- Norton’s home movies from the set
- Behind-the-scenes, special effects, and test footage
- A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a selection of commentary from young writers, along with a map of New Penzance Island and other ephemera
This Criterion Collection release of Moonrise Kingdom features a new 2K transfer which makes the films 16mm stock pop from the screen. There’s plenty of grain without being noisy and while this may sometimes lead to a perception that the image is overly soft, it presents an old timey look that perfectly suits the film and allows the colours to shine through.
The selection of extras on offer are a great scrapbooky look at the behind the scenes process on the film, but of particular interest will be the new commentary put together for this Criterion release. As mad and whimsical as you’d expect from something associated with Wes Anderson, this one’s well worth a listen.
There’s also a booklet which we sadly didn’t get a chance to look at.