Speaking about Wes Anderson's visual style is almost essential to the on-going conversation about his filmography (as it is – and should be – with every filmmaker), but the visuals are key to dissecting his films. There's something nostalgic and heavily sentimental about the level of detail within one of his films. Within each outfit and color palette, not only are his films visually cohesive, but the milieu of a Wes Anderson film reflects the backstory of his protagonists. His characters are often filmed dead on (as compared to at an angle) as though we are seeing his outlandish characters as the people they really are. All of these elements blend together to create a portrait of an individual (or a series of individuals).
[Just to get it out there, his visual motifs span his entire filmography and I've included examples of a few of these visuals (and much more) at the bottom of the review using a still from each of his feature films.]
Review: With all of that in mind, Wes Anderson's latest film Moonrise Kingdom (2012), is not only a return to live action, but is also a wonderful companion piece to The Royal Tenenbaums. Co-written with Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom is a traditional Anderson coming-of-age film (but told from a different perspective than usual). The children act like adults, and the adults act like children as they bounce in and out of relationships in an effort to gain a sense of satisfaction in life. Many of the characters are broken: Jared Gilman stars in the lead role as Sam Shakusky, a twelve year-old orphan attending Camp Ivanhoe who falls in love with a girl from a town nearby, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) a troubled twelve year-old girl. Together, the two scheme to escape their current residencies and run away together. A concept I've come to know as "The-End-All-Escape-Dream-Plan" theory.
Meanwhile, Suzy Bishop's parents (Bill Murray and Francis McDormand) are potentially nearing the end of their marriage as Mr. Bishop becomes suspicious of his wife's relationship with the local police officer Captain Sharp. When Sam and Suzy are finally united, all of these characters are forced to interact with each other to locate the children.
This film is brilliant, and easily one of the best of the year. It has a lot of heart, and though it may not be as powerful as The Royal Tenenbaums, this film is aiming for a different tone. Moonrise Kingdom has a magical quality to it as innocence is lost and paradise is discovered.
Wes Anderson is a known lover of cinema (something that shines through in all of his films), and his ability to homage to the films that influence him is always endearing and exciting to observe. Moonrise Kingdom feels akin to Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 film The Last Picture Show. Beyond the obvious plot-points such as a young couple running away, and parents having affairs etc; Moonrise Kingdom is a film about people who want a better life, the emotions of children being neglected by adults simply because "kids are not old enough to understand love". The Hank Williams song "Kaw-liga" is used as a song within both features (which both happen to take place around the same decade). Hell, one of the kids even has an eyepatch. Interestingly, these similarities feel like a tribute within Wes Anderson's film (similar to the Jacques Cousteau imagery found within The Life Aquatic).
The opening title sequence is set against a Benjamin Britten song entitled "The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra" which introduces each instrument within an orchestra, in the same way that a Wes Anderson film flaunts every aspect of its existence through its misè-en-scene (or production design). When the title appears with a loud thunder clap, the title quickly transitions in color (almost like an effect from Kubrick's 1971 film A Clockwork Orange). Even during a more violent scene in involving a pair of scissors, upon impact the film cuts to a series of vibrant drawings of scissors for only a second (which also calls to mind the skull-crushing stone-penis scene in A Clockwork Orange).
Moonrise Kingdom is truly a must-see (I saw it twice while it was in theaters in May).
My ranking: 5/5