Featuring a talented and fun cast, a strong and touching script and some of Wes Anderson’s best direction to date, Moonrise Kingdom is simply one of the best films of the year. Following Fantastic Mr. Fox, it is clear that Wes Anderson not only has come back to form but might have created his best film yet.
Moonrise Kingdom follows a New England island community as they try to search for an escaped boy scout (Jared Gilman) and a “troubled” girl (Kara Hayward), who ran away to live a romantic life together. Wes Anderson directed and wrote the film. Anderson’s recent collaborator and son of the great Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola, co-wrote the film.
Wes Anderson brings his trademark quirk to this film, but then again he brings that to each one of his films. What really makes this film soar is that it has a lot of heart. The characters Anderson and Coppola create are not only instantly likeable but actually feel like real characters. Anderson and Coppola provide a lot of depth to them. Anderson also has a great hold on the material. He finds the perfect balance between charm and fun and the much darker elements of the film (and they are definitely present). It also helps that Anderson might be working with his most talented crew to date. The cinematography is stunning. The production and costume design are noticeable, but more importantly contain the uniqueness that Anderson’s directing style normally has.
The cast is also extremely delightful. Anderson puts a lot of pressure on his child actors, but Jared Gilman and (especially) Kara Hayward deliver. The two have great chemistry together. While Gilman seems a bit miscast early on, he eventually makes you believe in him when it really counts. Meanwhile, Kara Hayward delivers what should be a star making performance. Her acting style is perfectly suited to Anderson’s quirkiness, and she really creates a three-dimensional character while taking little time or antics to do so.
The supporting cast is filled with famous actors and some do their best work in years. Edward Norton may be the highlight here as we are originally introduced to his scout master character as the villain of the film. However, slowly and with seemingly little effort on Norton’s part, his character becomes one of the more sympathetic in the film. With not as much screen time, Bruce Willis takes his police officer character on a similar transition. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are well cast as the main girls’ parents, and Tilda Swinton makes the most of her small part.
Even the cameo appearances in this film are memorable. Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel show up late in the film as members of the local Boy Scout brigade, and they are a joy to watch. Bob Balaban shows up as the quirkiest element of the film, but he really sells it as a narrator that gets a lot more involved than you would think.
Moonrise Kingdom is simply delightful and gives a wealth of great material for its ensemble.