Moonrise Kingdom (2012) movie poster

director Wes Anderson
viewed: 06/09/2012 at AMC Loews Metreon 16, SF, CA

It’s easy enough to see how Wes Anderson’s films aren’t necessarily going to appeal to everyone.  Their intensely crafted worlds are fantastical fictions, ornately, intricately detailed, loaded with whim and whimsy.  His characters are characters all, not so much people as characters.  His visual style is idiosyncratic.  His stories, little wind-up dioramas, generally of a wistful East Coast Americana, a very largely Caucasian Americana, gleaning the cool and the weird into these strange pristine visions.

Derisively, he’s potentially very twee, cute, too clever, lacking depth, diversity.

On the other hand, if you’re like me, and you really like Wes Anderson’s films, you might be watching a film, like his new one, Moonrise Kingdom, hungrily devouring the images as the whiz and bang by, trying to succor the details too refined for a single viewing.  As contrived as the characters can be, you utterly enjoy them, as contrived, but vivid, pleasurable artifices.  Anderson’s craze for schematics, details, maps, blueprints.  Every house is a dollhouse and can be traveled through room to room floor to floor as the camera eye declares.  And though, like his cast, like many of his themes and ideas, carries over film to film, it’s perfectly unobjectionable because who doesn’t love Bill Murray?

Honestly, I enjoyed the film thoroughly.  I took Felix and Clara because they had enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) enormously, so enormously, I was willing to give a shot to a non-animated version of Anderson’s hijinks.  Though I also thought that Fantastic Mr. Fox was fantastic and benefited in breaking from his characterizations by repopulating his world with stop-motion creatures.

Moonrise Kingdom takes place in 1965 on a fictional island off the coast of New England, in which an orphaned “khaki scout” named Sam (Jared Gilman) and a troubled girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward) run away together to experience some life on their own, away from their tormentors and disappointments.  The whole island gets looking for them as a massive storm approaches.  That’s about all you need to know of the story.  It’s a pre-teen love story.   It’s sweet.

I found myself thinking as the film was rolling past how wonderful it was to be watching a new Wes Anderson film, perhaps at the peak of his game.  It’s one of those odd positive emotional asides that strike me while watching movies, an awareness of the great joy of some things in their time, seeing them fresh, experiencing them new and of the moment.  It’s a joy that I’ve only else thought to attribute to Hayao Miyazaki in recent years.  In fact, I was sort of surprised how much I was enjoying it.

Clara also really liked it.  Felix didn’t care for the narrative breaks in which Bob Balaban, dressed in storm gear, addressed the audience directly.  One of my main thoughts, though, was how we could have been watching Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012), which had opened the day before and would likely have been the kids’ first choice had I offered it up that way.  I don’t mean to entirely denigrate the Madagascar series because I think they’re created some very funny characters.  But I much preferred sharing the quirky Moonrise Kingdom with them over the more blatantly child-friendly animation.