Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – directed by Wes Anderson, written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

by Margaux Williamson

Moonrise Kingdom is a sweet, good-natured, good-looking movie about young love. The love is between two child runaways on a charmingly idiosyncratic island set in 1965.

I have really liked quite a few Wes Anderson movies, but I found this one difficult to watch.

Though everything about the movie seemed interesting and pleasurable, my eyes had a hard time instinctively knowing what to look at. Everything was interesting and pleasurable. The movie frame was continuously filled from corner to corner with things lovingly crafted and interestingly arranged: the unusual curtains, the overly solemn children, the coiled rug, the crooked picture. It was as though my eyes couldn’t find the thing that was different. Everything was perfectly off, but to the same degree. So where to look? If all the objects and characters and animals and sky in the movie are as crafted and cared-for as the young lovers, it can make you wonder what the movie wants you to concentrate on. If this sameness makes it hard to understand where to rest your eyes, it makes it even harder to understand where to rest your heart.

Stern, unhappy adults and an approaching storm offer the main opportunities for disorder. Unfortunately, the stern, unhappy adults on the island are the most perfectly-off unhappy adults to be found in the world (or at least in Hollywood): Bruce Willis is an endearingly hesitating Police Captain; Frances McDormand is a stern and matter-of-fact secret lover; Bill Murray is a deliciously depressed father; Tilda Swinton is a militaristic child-protection employee; Bob Balaban is the wonderfully detached-and-I-know-it narrator. Every single one of these characters, like everything else in the movie, is a treat. But they in no way offer a break from this relentless uniformity of the “perfectly off”. Nor does the storm. The storm is just another charming rival to the charms of everything else.

If absolutely everything is perfectly off, it perhaps becomes more accurate to describe it as simply perfect, or having evolved towards a state of inert uniformity.

I started to crave a glimpse of a really sad child, a genuinely thoughtless action, a window that would open up and let you crawl out of this claustrophobic heaven – even if it just led you to a mall in 2002.


Filed under margaux williamson, movies, visual art

8 responses to “Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – directed by Wes Anderson, written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

  1. david

    I sort of liked the film, i felt the ‘ off’ part was my sudden interest in these two kids almost nude, and making out. However, this is a great review, and, in my mind, maybe more applies to hipster perfectly off culture.

    • thanks for the positive reply even if you didn’t share the view. i feel compelled to say though that i don’t have any tangible quarrel with what people call hipster culture – this specific movie just really didn’t work for me.

  2. Marion Lewis

    You might like the films of Mario Bava, who had a similar consideration for the frame.

    One of his great ones is Hatchet for a Honeymoon, starring Canadian Steve Forsyth, who now lives in Toronto. HFH just came out on Blueray and we saw it at the Revue Cinema. Steve spoke after the movie about the experience of making movies in Italy in the 60’s. His voice was overdubbed with another actors, which was the way it was done in the day. He mentioned that Bava spent a long time setting up the shot and then did one or two takes only.

  3. tedstenson

    I actually appreciated the superficiality of this film. The past couple of WA movies (Life Aquatic, Darjeeling) aimed for (and missed miserably IMO) genuine depictions of grief, longing, lust, etc., whereas in Moonrise Kingdom there is no real attempt at humanizing anything – just the flat (inert was a good word) appearance of whatever. This trend, wherein a character can be summed up by their wardrobe, seemed to get out of hand even in Royal Tennenbaums and I’m sort of happy this film carried that impulse to its logical conclusion.

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  6. I felt exactly the same as you. It kept me from enjoying the film that everyone, including reviewers, had told me was so wonderful. At some point it was all just too “precious”, too contrived. The feel one sometimes gets from a Joseph Cornell assemblage, not matter how wonderful they are. The consequence of perfect is replication – Walter Benjamin

  7. Sean

    I think it has a lot to do with the relationship between Wes and his brother Eric, who is a visual artist and who has filled up his brother’s movies with stuff. At least, he filled up the Royal Tenenbaums with stuff.