I was wrong and not only do I not mind saying that but rather I feel compelled to do so in the case of MOONRISE KINGDOM. I was quite excited to see Wes Anderson’s latest film when it debuted early in the summer, shortly after making its premiere to great fanfare at the Cannes Film Festival. In hindsight, I can see now that my initial reaction to the film, which was not a positive one, as you may have already gathered, or read for that matter, was likely tainted by two contributing factors. The first is that I had a major headache going into the screening that morning. The second, and arguably the more influential factor, would be that the film itself was not the film I wanted it to be. When I saw MOONRISE KINGDOM a second time though, and allowed it to be the film it actually is instead of what I had originally hoped it would be, I realized that not only was it Anderson at his absolute best, but it was also easily one of the finest films of the year.
What I wanted MOONRISE KINGDOM to be was an Anderson-esque comedy, featuring the bizarre antics of its incredible adult cast, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton. What it truly is, is an exceptionally made, Anderson-esque masterpiece, about two troubled young people, Sam and Suzy (newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), who see the potential for solace and acceptance in the other. Sam, a sensitive orphan, cannot seem to fit in in any family scenario he is placed; while Suzy cannot seem to find her place within her own biological family, Murray and McDormand playing her also troubled parents. They both feel unwanted and without a proper home because the adults that are supposed to be taking care of and guiding them, are too consumed by their own lives and egos. Sam and Suzy try as they might to make a home for themselves but quickly learn that, unlike the physical journey they are on, the road to a successful relationship does not come with a map and compass. Thus, Anderson’s opus rounds itself out as a poignant and charming reflection on generational influence.
After six films, Anderson is only getting stronger and more focused in his colorful and distinct approach to filmmaking. While his earlier successes, like RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, clearly outline his creative style, they can also be a bit cold for some. Anderson finds a warmth he has been building toward of late in MOONRISE KINGDOM. His past characters, with all their specific quirks, can fall prey to their own caricatured nature and get lost within their deliberate construction. Sam and Suzy are innocents though and their discomfort with the world around them, with each other and with their own selves, can palpably be felt on the screen. They are just as particular as any Anderson creation, if not more so at times, but their wonder about the world unfolding in front of them, gives them enough heart to not only make them some of the most real of any Anderson creation I’ve ever seen, but they also firmly ground Anderson’s lofty ambitions, a feat he lets get away from him from time to time. Simply put, if you are open to its charms, MOONRISE KINGDOM will wile you with delight and you will bear witness to Anderson’s crowning achievement. Also, its probably best not to watch it with a headache.