Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – A Tribute to the Adult Evocation of Adolescence

Screened at Angelika • 3rd Viewing 

Around the year it was released, the first time I watched Moonrise Kingdom I had been exactly the same age as young Sam — I know, spoilers for how old I am. So it’s safe to say that when I first watched Moonrise Kingdom, there was a special connection I made with it in terms of its exploration on puberty, angst, and what have you. This was additionally the first Wes Anderson motion picture I ever saw so… umm… “bias-alert” could be at play here is all I’m saying. 

The nostalgic, color-dominating shots of a beachy island community and wilderness nature grounds complimented by another hipster soundtrack that’ll have us all bopping our heads in praise is proof that this 2012 output appears gorgeous, of course; it’s a Wes Anderson production for crying out loud! But what does Moonrise Kingdom have to offer that differs from the rest? Something I noticed that is vastly unusual than something a typical Wes Anderson output would feature, especially in his newer releases like say The Grand Budapest Hotel, is that Moonrise Kingdom is quite passive and easy-going, exiting itself from a brisk-fast pace — for better or worse. There’s additionally a lot more Kubrick-esc handheld shots than I remembered someone like Wes Anderson being known to implement, so cool?

There is a conscious blindness in being an adolescent that is both graceful and concerning from the adult perspective. A kid is stabbed, a dog is murdered in cold blood — Lucas Hedges you son of a BITCH! — and Sam + Suzy almost attempt a Romeo + Juliet styled suicide after getting spiritually married. Most of Moonrise Kingdom is essentially just a surge of kids doing dumb s**t. The adventure into mindless affairs is what makes childhood so precious — it’s the moving detachment between a life worth living and a life worth lamenting over. You see that in Edward Norton’s character, who finds purpose in shadowing himself back in the shoes of a boy-scout or in Bruce Willis’s police persona who wallows in this journey to save Sam’s future. 

Even as adults though we still do stupid s**t due to almost nonexistent causes. Bill Murray is a deeply depressed father, possibly overwhelmed with the responsibility of parenthood but likely just fatigued of his continuing time on Earth. Frances McDormand is irresponsibly cheating on Murray in secrecy, cause, why not? There’s even a scene in Moonrise Kingdom where Bruce Willis talks about how as adults we may still be f**king up, but at least we try our best to make the next generation of low-life jerks better than us, even if our best can sometimes be pretty pathetic. It’s nearly as if these adult misfortunes are intrinsically born to expand into their children’s coming-of-age narrative; depression and hatred for the world feels almost unavoidable in the human spirit especially when we learn it from the characters surrounding us. I’ve always criticized Wes Anderson for his lack of inventive commentary, and while this may be the bare trait of what I found in substance at the heart of Moonrise Kingdom, not to mention that it’s periodically unraveled through tediously outspoken dialogue, at least it’s there as per most of the director’s body of work. His outputs occasionally feel like children’s movies trapped in adult brains, and I can respect that resoundingly especially in Moonrise Kingdom — the one literally centered on adolescence confined in a melancholic environment. 

Moonrise Kingdom’s plot unfortunately isn’t nearly complimented in greatness, as it’s wounded by some of Anderson’s most rashly developed characters yet and, once more, a few cut-and-dried conclusions. However, its visual beauties, incredibly numbing dry humor, and its gloomy execution — that elevates its themes gracefully— has it at an advantage overall. Surprisingly, it’s no longer my favorite Wes Anderson movie, but like… at the end of the day, that’s not saying too much considering his films (of those that I have seen) are ALL pretty great; not one dud!

Verdict: B

Wes Anderson Ranked

“Moonrise Kingdom” is now available to stream on Peacock.

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