Watched Jun 03, 2012
Peter Strauss’s review:
Behind only Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson seems to be the director with the easiest style to duplicate, while actually being the most complicated. His bold style has been the reference point for many would-be quirky filmmakers, including every first year film student ever. I have long held the belief that Anderson's style suffocates his movies, often in an attempt to make up for a lack of depth in the content. Moonrise Kingdom makes me want to re-evaluate that conclusion.
The difference between Anderson and his imitators is his almost incomprehensible mastery of composition. The articulate planning of every shot, pan, and cut make his movies feel like a giant Rube Goldberg machine: extremely complex maneuvers to execute a simple scene. Typically, a director reserves their stylistic flourishes for key dramatic points meant to stick with you, but Anderson has them everywhere. Because of this, his past movies often felt tiresomely quirky. My favourite Anderson film (until this point) was "The Life Aquatic", which many fans consider amongst his worst. The criticisms address a weak plot and themes and over-reliance on visual tricks. Since I've always considered this par for the course with Anderson, I was able to enjoy what I felt was a director reluctantly settling into his inevitable groove. As I said, Moonrise Kingdom changed my mind.
In Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson's stamp is as prevalent as ever, but here it constantly feels like it has purpose. Channeling aspects of Badlands, Charlie Brown, and Peter Pan's Lost Boys, its essentially a whimsical fantasy of life, love, future, and philosophy as imagined by children. Their master plan of lack of planning. The naivety of a child-centric adventure gives Anderson a lot more leeway with his imaginative touches. The flat panning sweeps across landscapes feel appropriate for boy scouts surveying their environment. The old-school zooms compliment that voyeurism in much of the film, and the more outrageous scenes are masterfully executed parodies of genre movies. Kingdom feels like an Anderson movie channeling every movie he's ever loved.
I have never outright hated an Anderson movie, but I've never loved one either, until now. His other movies seem to always spiral away from him by the third act, and while Kingdom sometimes drifts too far into cartoon comedy, those moments are fleeting. Moonrise Kingdom is controlled and focused without sprawling. It's closest companion is Rushmore, although I feel Rushmore was a trial run for this -- all of the skills Anderson has developed are at their most mature and refined here, this is the quintessential movie of Anderson's career. Unless I am vastly underestimating him as an artist, and I very well may be, he'll likely never achieve this perfect balance of his form again. But if I am right, then you have to get up, go out, and see this movie now.