January 31, 2013

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, starring Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward

Moonrise Kingdom:
Where children emulate adults to the point of insanity,
and how crazy are we grown ups anyways?

If you haven't seen Moonrise Kingdom yet, you've probably seen the TV spot and wondered, what in the name of Hollywood is that? The IMDB page can tell you it was directed by Wes Anderson, the mind who brought you the Royal Tenenbaums, and that it has an all star cast you may have never seen act so silly: Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton... Okay, you've seen Bill Murray and Frances McDormand goof around but I digress. Here's the trailer, so you can decide what to make of it yourself:

Goofy, am I right?

I would hate for anyone to go into Moonrise Kingdom knowing even the first thing about the characters. It's a film that needs to be experienced from a place of complete ignorance, and if you ask me, that's the only way to learn.

However, I will call to attention the costuming in the trailer to make my point. The children, and even the adults, are acting out different parts or roles, as children often do. The boys look very childish in their uniforms, but they play at being grown-ups. Ed Norton’s character wears a Khaki Scout uniform tailored for an adult, but with the same childish shorts, and Bruce Willis’ police captain uniform is every bit as ridiculous.

The little girl wears a very grown-up dress, which I can only assume she stole from her mother, and while actress Kara Hayward was twelve at the time of filming, the dress in one way makes her look younger than she is, and in another, makes you guess that she could be older. Some of the tension in the film comes from the difficulty deciding just how mature she is based on her appearance, affect, and behavior, while wearing that ridiculous dress.

What to Expect:

Moonrise Kingdom is a fairly short movie, at 94 minutes, with the kind of art direction you don’t normally expect from a dramatic comedy set in the 60s, an all-star cast, all of whom use their acting talent to misbehave, and a stunning score that mixes militaristic themes with a love for art. I know, right?

The title “Moonrise Kingdom” is the only hint we get for a long time that there will be any fantasy at all, and really, there isn’t much, if any, magic. What you will find is a love of the fantastic, the hard to believe, and the supernatural - the kind of magic that allows children and adults alike to slip far away from reality, and fast.

There is some bizarre and experimental editing and direction in Moonrise Kingdom, so expect to be very estranged on your first watch. The costumes are so bang-on, they don’t feel real - they feel like costumes. All of the characters play make-believe, which is best exemplified by Ed Norton’s lines such as “Jimminy Cricket, he flew the coop!” (yeah, that’s what a camp councilor says when their camper disappears from his or her tent) and “This is my real job: Scout Master, Troop 55. Math Teacher on the side.” Every character plays a number of roles: the boy scouts play at being deputized by the police captain, the housewife plays at being a mistress, our young hero and heroine play at getting married (as most all children do), and our rebellious dissenter will play at being a police officer.

So What’s it About?
The child and the adult world interact in interesting ways that we see every day when the children in our lives say the most strange, innocent things. Sometimes they emulate adults in funny ways that show how little they understand the world they live in: the adult one. But do we understand them any better? When children emulate us in good ways, we praise them. When they copy our bad behavior, we punish them. What we're not seeming to get is that we are the mold they are trying to fill. Sometimes they fail, and sometimes they succeed a little too well. Growing up is pretty messy and it's hard to stay in the lines, sometimes.

The children in Moonlight Kingdom find themselves in trouble and the question I find myself asking is how they can in any way be blamed for their actions. Monkey see, monkey do. Watch Moonrise Kingdom for yourself, and let me know whether you agree, in comments or on Twitter.

I would like to add as a final note that Moonrise Kingdom has won a number of awards for categories such as music (from the Boston Society of Film Critics, and Best Score from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association), Best Ensemble cast (from the COFCA), Best Art Direction (from the Chicago Film Critics Association), a number of Best Film awards, and a number of original screenplay awards (from the COFCA, the Online Film Critics Society, the Phoenix Film Critics Society, and the Southeastern Film Critics Association).

The only Oscar it was nominated for is within the screenplay category: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. After all of the awards and nominations Moonrise Kingdom has achieved from smaller associations, the Oscars have been widely accused of snubbing the cast and crew. Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts.


  1. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. It was like a great big walking, talking painting.

    Everything from the costumes in the play, to her book collection, right down to her very socks were all visually captivating. Loved it.

    1. It was incredible, visually, and I'm not at all surprised that you loved it. The crew really deserved those costume design and art direction awards, eh?

      Why can't every contemporary film have that much attention to detail? -Sigh-

      Thanks for dropping me a comment, Janet!