Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
October 29, 2019 8:01 PM - Subscribe

A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them.

Roger Ebert: Wes Anderson's mind must be an exciting place for a story idea to be born. It immediately becomes more than a series of events and is transformed into a world with its own rules, in which everything is driven by emotions and desires as convincing as they are magical. "Moonrise Kingdom" creates such a world and takes place on an island that might as well be ruled by Prospero. It's set in 1965, though it might as well be set at any time.

The success of "Moonrise Kingdom" depends on its understated gravity. None of the actors ever play for laughs or put sardonic spins on their material. We don't feel they're kidding. Yes, we know these events are less than likely, and the film's entire world is fantastical. But what happens in a fantasy can be more involving than what happens in life, and thank goodness for that.

On this island no one seems to live except for those involved in the story. There is a lighthouse in which the heroine, Suzy, lives with her family, and a Scout camp where the hero, Sam, stirs restlessly under what seem to him childish restrictions. Sam and Suzy met the previous summer and have been pen pals ever since, plotting a sort of jailbreak from their lives during which they could have an adventure out from under the thumbs of adults, if only for a week.

AV Club: For seven features now, Anderson has created secret universes like the one in Moonrise Kingdom, and invited viewers to immerse themselves in the idealized realm of his own miniaturist obsessions. Yet as tempting as it can be to dismiss them as fussy little art objects or shallow exercises in pastiche, his films aren’t closed off entirely. Real emotions occasionally ripple their pristine surfaces.

Slant: While youthful romance is notoriously difficult to portray on screen, Anderson pulls off something like a miracle in his treatment of Sam and Suzy’s burgeoning love. While he avoids obvious gushiness by giving them each their own quirks (which seem like an appropriate straining after an alternate world by a pair trying to carve out their own existence), he also takes care to undercut these affectations by showing the ways in which reality often makes mockery of fantasy. In one heartbreaking sequence, Suzy tells Sam how romantic the idea of being an orphan strikes her as being (an attitude that results from her reading of adventure novels), to which the boy replies, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Abashed, Suzy can only muster the response, “I love you too.” Tough and tender collide in a scene where cutesiness is undercut and sentimentality is sharply excised.

NYTimes: “Clever” is sometimes used as a cudgel against Mr. Anderson (along with “twee” and “quirky”), primarily, it seems, because he makes personal, rather than industrial, films that don’t look, move or feel like anyone else’s. The people in his work, their passions and dramas, are true and recognizable — and rarely more deeply felt than in “Moonrise Kingdom” — but they exist in a world apart, one made with extraordinary detail, care and, I think, love by Mr. Anderson. Sometimes they’re called dollhouse worlds, though, truly, they feel more authentic than many screen realities.

Slate: But maybe it’s OK to find Moonrise Kingdom both dramatically inert and aesthetically entrancing, to recommend it with a Wes Anderson asterisk (which would probably be a bright yellow asterisk, lovingly embroidered on brown corduroy). I hope so, because if loving this Texan-turned-Parisian’s cunning compositions and inspired use of music and staggeringly detailed production design is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Yes, he’s something of an obsessive hobbyist, a creator of self-contained, inaccessible ships in bottles (a creation metaphor that Anderson literalized in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou). And yes, I think it would be a good thing for him as an artist to break through the glass at some point and start sailing those ships on open waters. But the miniaturist details in this particular bottle—the flyleaf-style hand-drawn maps of New Penzance Island; the landscape shots as precise and delicate as watercolor paintings; the scratchily recorded children’s music of Benjamin Britten; the delightful presence of Bob Balaban as a narrator who’s half Hal Holbrook in Our Town, half Delphic oracle—are marvelous enough that I’m willing to wait around and see what he builds next.

Salon: I understand why Anderson's films drive some viewers nuts, in fact, and I would simply respond that it should be clear by now that his vision of cinema and the world is idiosyncratic and not to everyone's taste and that there's no point sitting around hoping he'll become more normal. But here's what I reject completely: The idea that the artificiality or hyperrealism (a better word, I think) of Anderson's worlds -- which is admittedly cranked up pretty high here -- is fundamentally pretentious and insincere, or that it reflects some kind of "kidult" refusal of grown-up emotion. Yes, Anderson's principal subject, and arguably his only subject, is the collision between the emotional lives of adults and children and the paradoxical tragicomedy it can so often produce. But if Anderson's adults yearn for the comparative simplicity of childhood while his children long for the big, important feelings they believe (wrongly) go with growing up, that in itself is a distinctly adult perspective.


Art of the Title

Filming locations
posted by MoonOrb (16 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Man I love this movie. I don’t miss being a teenager, like at all, but there are a handful of works of art that trick me into thinking I do. This is among them, but I’m glad it came out when I was mid-late 20s because think it only works in retrospect.
posted by supercres at 8:58 PM on October 29, 2019

I really like this film, and it's my favorite Wes Anderson film by a mile. In his other movies I feel like the ironic distance is choking the characters and the plot, but in this one it is being fought against or at least pushed against by characters not yet destroyed by it. The tone is even a little mythological to me, it is like the story of the birth of Love into a world that is kind of crystallized and ossified and asleep.
posted by fleacircus at 9:02 PM on October 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I enjoy all of Anderson's films (haven't seen Isle of Dogs because I am team cat) but I think this one is the best.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:09 PM on October 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love this movie, I went in thinking why would I want to watch a movie about teenagers? But wow, what a movie. I've watched it multiple times and it's so rare I see things twice, much less multiple times. Frances Mcdormond isn great, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman are perfect. Certainly just an amazing movie that I love to point to as fantastic that I initially resisted.
posted by Carillon at 11:12 PM on October 29, 2019

Went into this one not really knowing much about it, and I remember being pretty much bowled over by it. Loved the movie, bought the DVD as soon as it was available. But I've never watched it, I feel like the first viewing was such a delight I don't know that the second time through is going to be able to revive the same feeling. Suppose I will pop it in one of these days, it's been so long I remember very little about the movie except enjoying it greatly.
posted by jzb at 5:29 AM on October 30, 2019

This might well be the last film where we get to see Bruce Willis engaged and actually acting, which is a thing to see. In fact, it's been too long since I've watched this one, have to rectify that.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:24 AM on October 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is very easily my favorite Wes Anderson movie. When his scene style gets paired with a lot of nature, it actually just makes everything look like a documentary. So in a weird way, it feels a lot less affected than his other work. I find myself watching Moonrise Kingdom whenever it comes on. Frances McDormand is great here. The relationship between Suzy and her mom is so, so good. (Honestly, everything about Suzy is so good. I've never recognized and enjoyed a "bratty" character more than I do with the dramatic teenager who sincerely tells an orphan that she envies him.) The comedy beats really work, but they're also quiet enough that the shift into serious final act doesn't feel jarring. And -- oh, I think this might be the last time I enjoyed Edward Norton in anything.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:35 AM on October 30, 2019

I have amazing memories of this movie. I watched it at a summer camp in HS where we then spent the rest of the time making jokes about this movie.

And the boy scouts! Perfect portrayal of misfits who have been given far too much fire and sharp objects.

Noticed on second viewing: during the opening sequence, the lefty scissors are hanging up on the wall.

I love the music so much. It fits the atmosphere so perfectly.

Apparently, the Noah's Ark play was based on a play Wes Anderson did when he was in a christian middle school (right down the street from my middle school!) Dont remember where I read it but I totally believe it.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 8:25 AM on October 30, 2019

To start off with, I think we need to go and find that old record of Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra". Because if there is anybody who has ever listened to this and used it as a tool for the imagination then Moonrise Kingdom is the film for you. Ready. OK let's go...

I love this film - and its sense of a quirky summery away-from-it-all world reminds me of "Drowning by Numbers" by Peter Greenway (trailer)
posted by rongorongo at 2:55 AM on October 31, 2019

I'm not much of a Wes Anderson fan, but I loved this film. It's nice to know I'm not alone in this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:13 AM on October 31, 2019

Wes Anderson and Peter Greenaway seem very different to me. Granted, they share an predilection for formalized irrealism, but Anderson includes a light sentimentality that's wholly lacking in Greenaway's films. In fact, I think Greenaway and Anderson are in opposition in a sense -- Anderson's formalism squeezes just enough that some juice drips out while Greenaway's ruthlessly wrings until it's bone-dry.

Both are too self-aware for me -- I have limited patience for art which seems mostly to be an exercise in demonstrating the artist's cleverness. Moonrise Kingdon had (barely) just enough restraint for my taste. Greenaway has no restraint at all.

Even so, when I was young, for a time Greenaway was my favorite director and Drowning by Numbers one of my favorite films.

I greatly enjoyed André Bazin's What is Cinema? and found his arguments for realist cinema to be cogent and persuasive; but in the end I completely disagreed with him for the same reasons I disagree with the similar argument with regard to photography. There is nothing real about photography and cinema -- they are profoundly subjective if not outright lies -- and while a supposed inherent realism in cinema can be a useful tool in the suspension of disbelief, so too can be the inversion of this relationship. (See also Orson Welles's F for Fake.)

I discovered Greenaway's work at just the right time to act as a bit of an antidote to the intoxication of realist cinema.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:08 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

“Was he a good dog?”

“Who’s to say?”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:26 PM on November 1, 2019 [6 favorites]

I watched this once years ago and I always remember that Wes Anderson filmed a then-12 or 13 year old actress in her underwear. The underwear beach dance scene is unnecessary. There are plenty of other ways to convey that youthful carefree romantic summer atmosphere. The film prior to that scene was adorable but I won't watch it again because everything after it and in retrospect, the whole film, is unsettling given this context.

I don't recall exactly but doesn't Sam (who was also played by a child) touch Suzy's breast? Children don't need to be filmed in that manner.

I always hear praise for this movie but nothing about watching out for kids in the film industry. Is it so easy to bury that concern in a movie so carefully crafted to hit that nostalgic and sweet saccharine spot so so many Wes Anderson films do? (Anderson has done plenty of problematic things and rarely seems to be criticized for them.)
posted by mayurasana at 8:50 PM on November 3, 2019

You'll be glad to know that the two heroes of this movie were still together years later, now living in Patterson, NJ, and having become anarchists.
posted by maxsparber at 7:18 AM on November 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

I find that if I know someone reasonably well, I can predict his or her favorite Wes Anderson film. This one, predictably, is mine.
posted by ubiquity at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2019

The 11-year reunion was quite poignant.
posted by bbrown at 4:04 PM on September 28

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