Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson’s mind is finally a fun place to be at again.

Moonrise Kingdom centers on two 12 year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who fall in love and decide run away together into the wilderness. Naturally, the local community frantically scrambles to find them before a violent storm hits shore.

For awhile now, it seems like Wes Anderson has really started losing any credit he’s ever gotten since his debut, Bottle Rocket. Mainly, the reason for that is because his style is just overly-quirky, to the point of where you don’t feel like you’re actually watching real-life human beings, you’re just watching a bunch of twee characters made from Anderson’s sketches. However, that all changes here but at the same time, doesn’t change all that much. Which is very strange considering it’s probably my favorite from him since The Royal Tenenbaums.

This is probably Anderson’s best-looking flick he has ever done but it’s also with the same style he’s been using for his whole career, it’s just that it works so well with the story. All of the trademarks from Anderson’s direction are here in this flick, but the difference here that sets it apart from all of his other, beautiful-looking movies is that this one is set in the 60’s. The bright colors, sets, costumes, and camera-tricks that Anderson pulls out of his pocket all work rather than just seeming like another hipster attempt at being “cool” because of how he sets it in the 60’s. 60’s was a time for fun, relaxing, and being yourself and Anderson totally taps into that mind-set with just how gorgeous he makes this film look and even if you don’t like Anderson films (and trust me, there are plenty out there who absolutely despise the hell out of him), you can still sit there and just gaze at the beautiful portrait Anderson has on-display here.

Anderson always has beautiful films, no surprise there, but what makes this one so different is that he has a great script to give us something else to sink our teeth into. Anderson has a very dead-pan way of comedic timing but it’s put to great use here just because the film is so damn funny. As usual, you have to look out for little sight gags here and there but it’s the fact that this film continues to get more and more goofy as it goes on, that makes you feel like you’re having the time of your life. There’s a certain unabashed “fun” feel to this film that had me entertained so much but it’s more about how the story made me feel, rather than what it made me do.

This is probably Anderson’s most innocent piece of work to date, and with good reason because when you have a story about two runaway, little kids being together and falling in love, how can you not get a little cutesy? There are so many moments here that are so pleasant to watch because you really feel something for these two kids whenever they are together, and you want them to be happy, you want them to never grow-up and be old, angry people like Suzy’s parents, and you just want them to live their lives together, forever. I know it all sounds uber cheesy and lame, but this story really bring you into to its sweetness and Anderson takes full advantage of that showing us that the outside world for these two, is just not a fun or happy place to be, especially together. It was a story that actually reminded me a lot of my little crushes I had on some chickity-doo-da’s when I was little tike and made me feel young again, just watching how happy they were being able to connect to somebody in their lives. It’s some great stuff to see up on-screen and it’s a real surprise that Wes Anderson almost had me close to tears by the end of it all. “Close to tears” is what I said, people! Don’t worry, he didn’t get me just yet.

The reason why you love these kids together so much, is because the performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so damn good that I was even surprised to hear that this was their first film-roles ever. Gilman has this nerdy, but endearing look to him that makes him easy to like especially when he starts acting all cool and tough, while he’s trying to protect his “girl” from the cruel outside world. While Hayward is absolutely great as this somewhat disturbed girl, that seems like she would most likely be one of those emo freaks, had she been born 30 years later. They both seem so natural with each other, which really shocked me because they have to do some pretty “intimate things” together that would more than likely have some kids turn their heads and go, “ewwww coootieeeeesss!!”. However, that’s not either of these kids and they’re definitely a perfect fit for one another and I hope that they both get some real, bright futures for themselves because I think they deserve it with the work they put out here.

They’re the real stars of this flick, but everybody else is pretty damn good, too. Bill Murray is great as the dead-pan, always sad daddy of Suzy; Frances McDormand is fun to watch as the very messed-up mom of Suzie (also, Hayward looked a little bit like a younger version of McDormand, just a little bit though); Edward Norton is a whole lot of fun as the cheesy Scout Master Ward, and totally had me by surprise by how spot-on his comedic timing was considering this was the guy who got nominated for an Oscar where he actually curb stomped some dude (doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have me really laughing at all); Tilda Swinton is evil and bitchy as Social Services, then again, what other kind of character would she play; and Jason Schwartzman also pops-up for about 5 minutes as Cousin Ben, but is still a lot of fun.

Actually, the most surprising piece of good work here was probably done by Bruce Willis as the sad and lonely guy that searches all over for these kids, Captain Sharp. Willis has been so many damn action roles as of late that so many people almost forget about how great of a “dramatic” actor this guy can be at times and he totally surprised me with the depth he was able to go through with this sad-sack of a character. He’s not really all that tough, he’s not really all that happy, and he’s really not at all like John McClane in the least bit. All of which, are a great thing and I hope this shows that Willis has more to him than just shouting out “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!”.

If there was one complaint I had to throw out from this whole movie it would have to be Bob Balaban as the narrator. The guy opens up the film and is a funny joke, but every time he comes on, for some reason just bothered the hell out of me and it seemed like it was a joke that went on too long. Not a huge problem by any means, but any time the guy showed up, I seemed to have gotten more annoyed.

Consensus: Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s welcome back to being a top-notch writer/director, and with good reason. The ensemble all bring out great work, including the little kiddie leads, the writing is hilarious in its subtle, dead-pan way, and the story itself will drag you in with its sweet innocence. Classic Anderson and I hope he’s back to stay for good.

9/10=Full Price!!


  1. Nice review Dan, it hasn’t released in my area yet and I’m upset because I’m a huge Anderson fan, I love how beautiful his movies are, it kind of makes men talk kind of girly how beautiful they are. But Darjeeling Limited is my favorite film, just so visually stunning.

  2. Dammit! If gas prices weren’t so high and I had more cash. I would go see this film right now. There’s nothing wrong the Midtown Arts Center in Atlanta as it’s a great theater. It’s just that it’s becoming far to drive to and all I have is a fucking gas-guzzler.

    • Damn Steve! I’m sorry to hear man! I hope you can find this any place that’s closer and doesn’t screw over your gas situation. That’s easier said then done though.

  3. The closest theater showing this is about 200 miles away from me. You don’t seem to be the biggest fan of Anderson, yet you love this. I’m a huge fan of Anderson, which makes me think I’m going to fall in love with this film.

    You mention being near tears. Anderson has a way of making a funny, magical universe and then throwing it into disarray with some heart-wrenching tragedy. I think his quirkiness is a way to balance things out. A true comic relief.

    How could we (or the characters) have ever coped with Ned’s death without cramming into a submarine to see the delightful “Jaguar” shark?

    Or dealt with Richie’s suicide attempt without the scene where Chas chases down Eli Cash after his car wreck?

    Anderson is BRILLIANT!

    • I usually do love Anderson films, but his last couple have really been stinking as of late. Thankfully, he’s back in action with this one. Thanks Dusty!

  4. I loved that movie and I am not a Wes Anderson fan! I disagree with you on Bob Balaban. I thought he added to the movie rather than taking away from it. Nice review!

  5. Wow, high review for Moonrise Kingdom, Dan! I wasn’t going to check this movie out, but after reading your review and hearing so much positive feedback about the film, I think I’m going to have to now. I’m also glad to hear that Bruce Willis is tapping into dramatic side a little. I remember him from what . . . The Kid? (or something like that) way back, and really enjoyed him in that. Looking forward to checking this movie out. Nice review, Dan!

    • Willis is obviously trying to tap into some more dramatic roles, and I can tell that they work for him. Thanks Kristin! I hope you like it as much as I do!

  6. I have a feeling I will enjoy this one since I generally like Wes Anderson. One review that I read described his movies as watching dioramas of the thoughts in Wes Anderson’s head, which of course can get boring or seem unreal after a while like you point out. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to check it out soon.

  7. Dan-
    Great review. I also think that this is his best work since The Royal Tenenbaums. Jared and Kara are pretty spectacular given it is their first movie and they carry it quite well which is no easy thing to do. Check out my review if you get a chance. Take care.

  8. I’ve read a lot of reviews on this movie since I’ve seen it and none of them have summed up my opinion as closely as yours had, it’s always refreshing to hear people say what you’re thinking, lol

    Anyways I like your “conclusion” segment, its always nice to see a summation of what someone thinks of a movie overall. That way you can make criticisms of various elements of a movie without making it seem like those criticisms ruined the movie for you or anything

    I’m relatively new to the blogging world but feel free to check out my review of MK if you like, I always love getting feedback from other reviewers 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s