The Review: I’ve become addicted to daytime TV. Not just any old daytime TV, though; for me the Jeremy Kyles and Loose Women of this world hold no appeal. What I’m hooked on is a tea time pairing that tests the most trivial knowledge to the deepest of levels, where two men gently exchange banter and interrogate members of the public. Pointless is the name of the game, and if you’ve not seen it it’s essentially the inverse of Family Fortunes (or Family Feud if you’re American), so 100 people are asked questions and the best answers are given by the fewest people. I can often come up with a pointless answer on the film questions, but one recent episode had me completely stumped: all of the Bill Murray films I could think of, no matter how obscure, seemed to have been thought of. The likes of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day aren’t a surprise, but when two people out of a hundred remembered What About Bob? and Broken Flowers, surely there was no Murray film left unsaid? In fact, among the list of pointless Bill Murray films sat three with a common thread: Rushmore, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited.
I pity those two people, if they were the same two people, that despite an obvious level of film buffery they couldn’t recall half of Wes Anderson’s back catalogue, for Anderson and Murray go together like a well-aged cheese and a particularly fine wine. For what feels like an eternity, the world (and his former co-stars) have appealed to Murray to appear in Ghostbusters 3, with a seemingly now terminal lack of success, but he appears in whatever Anderson has cooked up with unerring regularity, ranging from the starring roles of Zissou to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo of Darjeeling. For fans, it’s not hard to see why Murray keeps being drawn back, like a moth to the flame, but the style of Wes Anderson might also explain why so few people would seemingly count themselves as committed fans, at least in a random sampling of the public. Wes Anderson’s films are easy to identify, both thematically and stylistically, and the recognition factor is dialled up to at least 11 on both counts here. Moonrise Kingdom is resolutely the most Wes Anderson film of any Wes Anderson film to date.
From the opening moments, when the camera glides round the house of Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, turning only at right angles as it winds its way through the corridors of the house to the accompaniment of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, it’s as if Wes has only one more film left in him, and has poured his very heart and soul into this final cinematic fling. Every single frame is artfully constructed and everything from the main characters to the merest background detail planned to within an inch of its life. Everyone’s been led to believe that silent films and black and white are on the up again in the year of The Artist, and while one could conceivably take great satisfaction from sitting back with the sound off, the intense colour palette and vibrant scenery is as intense an argument as has been made for many a year. Of course, if you did have the sound off, you’d miss out on one of the year’s outstanding soundtracks, Alexandre Desplat’s score perfectly complementing the selections of Britten music that give Moonrise Kingdom its foundation.
There is one particular vocal resonance that’s missing here, for while Anderson stalwarts Murray and Jason Schwartzman both appear, there’s no Owen Wilson to be seen this time around. Filling the gap left by Wilson are the likes of Bruce Willis as the ineffectual police captain of the island, Edward Norton as the scout captain losing control of his brigade (and Harvey Keitel as his stern superior) and Tilda Swinton as the closest the film has to an antagonist in the form of Social Services. (There’s also another specific delight in the form of Bob Balaban popping up as a narrator; if the question was “How ridiculous can we make him look?” then the answer would be “satisfyingly.”) The grown-up performances all feel of the specific world created and are as good as anything else Anderson’s ever gotten from his actors, but they’re all really supporting roles. The stars of the film are the two youngsters, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward and they give slightly mannered performances that should come as no surprise but still give the moving tableau a beating heart to bring it to life.
The adults around them manage to make life appear extraordinarily complex and awkward, whereas our two young leads glide through life with a reasonable amount of grace and a seeming lack of effort, reinforcing the cinematic stereotype that kids know more about love and relationships than adults ever will. Despite this, the unfolding young love affair grips and Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola make it incredibly easy to root for them. It’s a simple story at its core, small but perfectly formed, the combination of production values and performances giving it a fable-like quality, oozing charm and packed full of humour and genuine emotion that shines through the mannerisms. For those who have found Wes Anderson pointless in the past, it’s unlikely to win you over, but for those who consider themselves fans of his previous work, this is an intravenous hit of pure joy which should reward repeat viewings.
Why see it at the cinema: If you’re a fan of any of Anderson’s previous work, then Moonrise Kingdom is an absolute must-see. Even if you’re not, then the blinding brilliance of the visual construction of each shot, coupled with a script that provides consistent laughs throughout, make this worth a trip to your nearest cinema. Catch it while you can, and don’t feel guilty about sitting through the end credits.
The Score: 10/10