out of Five
Running time: 94
Wes Anderson's seventh feature is a delight from start to finish, thanks to a wonderful script, a typically fabulous soundtrack, achingly stylish direction, gorgeous production design work and terrific performances from a superb cast.
What's it all about?
Co-written (with Roman Coppola) and directed by Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom is set on an island in 1960s New England and stars Jared Gilman as Sam, a pre-teen orphan who falls in love with local girl Suzy (Kara Hayward) and quits his Scout troop in order to run away with her. When their disappearance is discovered, Suzy's lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) send out a search party lead by local cop Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), while Scout leader Ward (Ed Norton) puts his troop's scouting skills to the test and sends them off in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile, Sam and Suzy successfully fend off the heavily armed Scout troop and fall deeper in love as they continue their island-wide adventure, but things get more serious when it turns out that Sam's foster parents don't want him back and Social Services (Tilda Swinton) are called in. And as if that wasn't bad enough, there's also the small matter of an incoming storm ...
Newcomers Gilman and Hayward are terrific as Sam and Suzy and their burgeoning relationship is both touching and sweet, sharply conveying the intensity of first love; their first kiss on the beach is just one of several highlights. Similarly, both Ed Norton and Bruce Willis make perfect additions to Anderson's de facto rep company, with both men displaying impressive aptitude for Anderson's peculiar brand of deadpan, melancholy-tinged comedy but also bringing unexpected warmth to various scenes, particularly in Norton's scenes with Gilman.
The witty script is packed with delicious dialogue and quirky touches (such as McDormand's use of a loud-hailer) and there are several enjoyable movie references (specifically to French New Wave films, but there are elements of Richard Ayoade's admittedly Anderson-inspired Submarine, too), as well as some gorgeous production design work, heightened by Anderson's deliberately idiosyncratic cinematography, in collaboration with Robert D. Yeoman. There's also a typically brilliant soundtrack, coupled with a great score from Alexandre Desplat. (Note: Desplat fans should definitely stick around during the final credits).
Intriguingly, Moonrise Kingdom contains strong echoes of Anderson's previous films, such as a jaw-droppingly pretentious amateur production (Rushmore) and some quirky animated effects (Fantastic Mr Fox), while Suzy's predilection for heavy kohl-rimmed eye make-up clearly stems from Gwyneth Paltrow's Margot Tenenbaum. A great final shot, too.
If you're already a Wes Anderson fan, then Moonrise Kingdom is almost exactly the film that you've been hoping for, while also seeming likely to make several new converts to his cause. Funny, superbly acted and brilliantly written, this is thoroughly enjoyable and one of the best films of the year.