Wes Anderson, like Tim Burton, is a director known best for his singular visual style. Moonrise Kingdom, his latest opens on a framed cross stitch of a quaint cottage, the camera then zooming out and panning through a cross section of rooms within this very cottage; it’s quintessential Anderson and his critics wouldn’t be wrong to whine that it’s a trick he’s used before – so many times that shows like Community have also used it as homage – like I do when Burton opens his with bright red highlight on a gothic black background, but any such assumptions are quickly quenched by what comes next, the opening credits. Besides Bill Murray this is a cast – and what a cast – that have never before been seen on the screen in an Anderson picture and their presence is a symbol, for those who can see it, that the man has evolved and that Moonrise is to be a movie unlike any of his others; in fact I would go so far as to say that it is simply unlike anything else…ever.
The second thing suggested by these opening credits – and there are many: the quirky font suggestive of the films style, the fact that they play in full of it’s old school nature, i could go on – is the size of the film; the cast is big and contains some very big names, so it only makes sense that the result is a much more extreme and extravagant picture than expected. This ludicrous largess fits in perfectly with the films perspective, that of two troubled teenagers in love, as big is simply the way that things seem to teens: everything is life and death and love and hate and utterly apocalyptic in their eyes, even when they live on a quiet little island in a mundane state of America.
Now some of you may have been put off by that paragraph, you might have rolled your eyes, sighed and thought something along the lines of “God damn teenagers,” and to be honest i don’t blame you, in fact i’m right there in thinking these types of characters are myopic and megalomaniacal, that losing Romeo and Juliet maybe wasn’t such a great tragedy. Soearly on In this film i was underwhelmed, i didn’t feel the emotions required to care for these two characters who had run off into the woods, but as the film goes it grows and eventually transcends those expectations of teenage angst. This is not the story of precocious teens, it just happens to start there; what it’s a story of is life. Everything that is a part of the human experience is reflected here, it just happens to all happen in the space of a few days; the grand, cosmic composition broken down into smaller swallowable pieces.
When you sit down to see Moonrise you are in a way watching a nature documentary, something Attenbourghian (or Zissouian. Zissouesque?) as the sparse scientific narration from the island’s strange researcher suggests. In Planet Earth we see stories of such grand scope spill out in a series of short scenes and time lapses and the same happens here. A creature gives birth to children, raises them then dies with the hope that their progeny will in time grow pregnant and this film follows a similarly cyclical structure, only much more subtly; the kids following in the footsteps of the adults without either ever being aware enough to notice.
It truly is fascinating but not as full on as that all made it sound; like life and like the shows that show it to us Moonrise is a story made up of as many small moments as it is big and as we all now expect from Anderson these little touches, these subtle sight gags and silent conversations, are all irreverently strange, sublime and stupid in equal parts. The sights and sounds of the journey are as strong as ever, each shot so full of color and cleverness, but the story Wes uses them to write is something of a surprising one; the sex, death and violence within it were all more explicit than expected. As were his Nouvelle Vague homage, Wes has always been very New Wave but the way that the female lead both looks and is shot like Contempt era Bridgette Bardot plus the Impromptu dance number straight from A Bande Apart make the Homage rather blunt.
I haven’t said much about the story, acting, writing; much about the movie itself and that is somewhat intentional. Like life I think Moonrise Kingdom is better lived up close then looked at from afar; that it is better to have the good and bad parts of it greet you as and when they will. It’s not flawless, far from it, nor is it the most moving or amazing movie that you will ever experience but like life, i guess you’ve just gotta give it a try.