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Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)


Young love dangerously blooms with a style that could only have come from Wes Anderson in Moonlight Kingdom. Set on a fictional island in the 1960s, the film resembles a diorama at times, with Andersonís trademarked rectilinear framing and obsessive detail in both set design and costuming. The director gives his film a grainy, yellowed look that lends its nostalgic backdrops a dreamy feel. In this enchanted milieu, two twelve-year-old romantics (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) hatch a plan to elope into the wilderness and set into motion a search party involving Khaki Scouts, concerned parents and Social Services. Featuring an all-star cast and a wonderfully playful score from Alexandre Desplat, Moonrise Kingdom hopes to kindle a sense of childhood adventure in even the most jaded of hearts.


The filmís subject matter is slight, but Anderson amplifies the emotional stakes so that the audience becomes invested in the fate of this seemingly doomed young couple. The directorís consistently insistent immaturity becomes an asset here, as he is able to tap into the alienation and frustration that defines their young lives. At the same time, their romance is treated as something comically precocious. The boyís overpreparedness and the girlís sullenness are expected to endear us to them and serve as a satirical reminder of childhood folly in equal measure. As a result, Moonrise Kingdom is wistful without being cloying. Anderson appreciates that these kids have been genuinely wounded by their short livesí disappointments, but at the same time is naÔve enough to believe that their love can salvage them. The natural intimacy that Anderson pulls from his young leads, even as he surrounds them in an archly artificial world, goes a long way toward making the film work.


Moonrise Kingdomís biggest problem is that as astutely observed it might be at every moment, it ends up feeling like something less than a sum of its parts. It might be too much to ask a tale about the first stirrings of romance to be deep, but one gets the impression that by spending time on a love triangle between three of the adult characters, that Anderson hoped to amplify the young unsí bittersweet stirrings until they reflected some universal truths. Thereís an undercurrent of sadness here, to be sure, but it stays just out of reach, somewhat lost among the hustle and bustle of the overcomplicated cast of characters and series of vivid set pieces. Still, Moonrise Kingdom is a charming reminder of Andersonís particular talent for spinning fantasies about the collective childhood we all wish we had.



Jeremy Heilman