Movie review: Moonrise Kingdom

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By Emma Perry

Posted on September 7, 2012

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Wes Anderson’s latest movie release, Animal Kingdom, is a dark yet funny; amusing yet complicated look at young love.

Full of style, quirkiness and a host of strong performances, Moonrise Kingdom is set in the summer of 1965 on the fictional island of New Penzance.

Early in the film, a bizarre Bob Balaban appears in red coat and woollen hat in the role of narrator, introducing us to the island. His quirky narrative appears intermittently throughout the film, serving to contribute to the building tension surrounding the storm that is closing in.

The opening scenes, striking in their artistry, set the tone. Almost like a doll’s house view, the camera pans over a cross section of Suzy’s house revealing the daily habits of her family. Three younger brothers amusing themselves, mother and father separate. The father reads in different rooms, alone. Mum files her nails, wanders, files her nails again, and exudes boredom. Suzy with her binoculars and vibrant blue eye shadow, highlighting her acute observations, is watching. Waiting.

Suzy has a connection with Sam, an orphan. Both feeling alienated, they find solace and much needed understanding and familiarity from each other. Together they run away.

As the two twelve year olds trek across the Chickchaw Migration trail, utilizing Sam’s scout skills, the community begins a haphazard and comical search to bring them home. Bruce Willis, in a stellar performance as the laidback Captain Sharp, shines. Edward Norton, as Sam’s Scout Master Ward running his camp in a regimented fashion, is also a great choice. Together they bring forth Anderson’s deadpan, comedic approach.

The performances of Jared Gilman (as Sam) and Kara Jayward (as Suzy), are a highlight due to their ability to cope with the heavy storyline. Kara is perfect in the role of a moody 12 year old hiding her tenderness. Jared’s performance as Sam is full of quirkiness which sits beautifully with Anderson’s style – he sports his cocoon hat and pipe admirably, hinting at Anderson’s  treatment of children as more mature than the adults that surround them. Their mature approach to carving out their existence in the woods, serves as a perfect foil to the plight of the adults attempting to track them down.

Tilda Swanton sweeps in during the second half as ‘Social Services’. Her body language, commanding presence, and authoritative tone aptly harness the bureaucratic figure.

The musical score of Moonrise Kingdom plays an integral part. Music supervisor, Randall Poster, harnesses the tone and direction of the movie with powerful and eclectic choices. Classical music features heavily, dominated by work from composer Benjamin Britten. His Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra appears a favourite of the young brothers and dominates the opening scene in particular. Echoing Anderson’s eccentric style, a number of Hank William’s country songs also make an appearance.

Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s seventh film; it is heavy on style and features a meticulous attention to detail which creates a visual feast for movie lovers. Ensure you stay seated for the credits …

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Emma Perry.

Emma Perry is a freelance writer, reviewer and founder of the popular www.mybookcorner.com.au a children’s book review and price comparison website. A Melbourne dwelling book lover, she can be found buried under a mountain of books.

Website: http://www.mybookcorner.com.au/

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  • Ashley

    Great article Emma, I’m glad you liked Moonrise Kingdom. I’m glad to hear it has powerful performances from some amazing actors. The musical score is one of my favorite parts, I’m glad to hear Randall Poster captures the dream of the film in his music. I love and watch plenty of movies on my frequent business trips for DISH. I use Blockbuster @Home simply because DVD’s of new releases are available faster than other services. I always love being able to work and follow my passion for movies at the same time on my routine trips. I have to admit that I am a huge Edward Norton fan, so I’m happy to see that he’s popping up again.

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