The UnPopular Opinion: Moonrise Kingdom
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
This pains me to write as a Wes Anderson fan but I really hated MOONRISE KINGDOM. Much like Tim Burton, Wes Anderson is an incredibly stylized director with a very niche film-making palette. Sometimes when he extends that palette it works, like in the brilliant THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Sometimes, it feels repetitive, like THE LIFE AQUATIC as compared to THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. But, with MOONRISE KINGDOM, Anderson somehow managed to make the perfect Wes Anderson film that doesn't feel like it was directed by Wes Anderson.
None of Wes Anderson's films exist in reality. Every movie he has made, with the exception of his debut, BOTTLE ROCKET, feels like it takes place in a fantasy world slightly parallel to our own reality. Whether it be New York, Zubrowka, or India, Anderson's settings feel wholly unique to the film they are in. But, they never felt forced. I could not make it through the entirety of MOONRISE KINGDOM without the gnawing feeling that Wes Anderson really wanted us to see this story but couldn't quite figure out how to get it to us.
On Wednesdays we wear bizarre animal costumes.
Anderson collaborators in the past have gone on to fine careers as filmmakers. Whether it be Roman Coppola, Noah Baumbach, or even Jason Schwartzmann and Owen Wilson, they each have lent their distinct writing voices to Anderson's films as they were needed. While Roman Coppola co-wrote MOONRISE KINGDOM, I cannot help but feel it may have benefited from his direction with Anderson simply serving as a producer. All of the trademark Anderson detail is here in the form of meticulously recreated book covers, albums, and other props, but MOONRISE KINGDOM never feels like it elevates itself beyond a sense of "look at me" filmmaking rather than the more natural course all of the other movies Wes Anderson has directed.
MOONRISE KINGDOM is just boring. It has all of the elements that make Anderson's films great, but it just doesn't work. You can call out all of the items that make this movie bad and they work flawlessly in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Period story? Check. Huge cast? Check. Quirky central characters? Check. Handmade set design and title cards? Check. So, why does MOONRISE KINGDOM fail? It doesn't feel authentic in the least.
Wes Anderson Presents DIE HARD WITH A MAJESTIC GRACE
MOONRISE KINGDOM shares a lot in common, visually, with RUSHMORE. After that film and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, Anderson began to venture into more and more surreal territory. THE LIFE AQUATIC and THE DARJEELING LIMITED both dive into the depths of merging the Etsy-like creations that populate scene transitions and the bookshelves of these films, further separating them from reality. Eventually, Wes Anderson directed THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, the epitome of this aesthetic. The combination of stop motion animation with Anderson's style created a very unique film. But, once you have gone that far down the rabbit hole, where else is there to go? MOONRISE KINGDOM serves as a polar shift from that animated world to a washed out reality. MOONRISE KINGDOM feels dreamlike and grounded, two impressions that when felt simultaneously can be quite jarring.
Anderson's usual troupe is here in a limited capacity. Only Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann appear in MOONRISE KINGDOM. While almost every actor that has worked with Anderson returned in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, MOONRISE KINGDOM is a showcase for new talent. Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, and Edward Norton are all good here, but the lack of any other Anderson regular is very apparent. McDormand is very under-used in her role while Willis and Norton shine. Edward Norton especially feels perfectly at home in the madness of a Wes Anderson production and I hope he continues to appear in future films. But MOONRISE KINGDOM hinges on the two young stars that play Suzy and Sam. Jared Hilman and Kara Hayward are given the challenge of carrying this film on their pre-teen shoulders, spewing dialogue that would be difficult to deliver for even a seasoned actor. They both do a serviceable job, but there is not enough to make the movie work.
Everything about this scene looks perfect. Perfectly boring.
There is no doubt that Wes Anderson is an acquired taste. Having loved every movie he has made, disliking MOONRISE KINGDOM was difficult. I watched it again and again, trying to appreciate it as much as I could, but it just didn't amount to a working film. Bill Murray had his moments in the film, per usual, as did almost every cast member. The cinematography is classic Anderson and Alexandre Desplat's score evoked the same nostalgic feeling I get form every American Empirical feature. MOONRISE KINGDOM is the rare story about youth that doesn't involve violence, aliens, or sex and should have been a home run for Anderson. But, something just doesn't click and makes MOONRISE KINGDOM the lone failure in a career without fault.
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