But his penmanship stretches far beyond the look of a film, focusing equally if not more so on the feel—the context, the subtext, the characters, the emotion, and everything in between. And when it comes to the look and feel of Anderson’s latest, “Moonrise Kingdom,” the film looks wondrous and I feel just the same.
Beautifully choreographed shots, symmetrical and centered framing, a strong reliance on zooms, vibrant colors—I could write essays on Wes Anderson’s visual prowess, something that stands immediately distinguishable from fellow contemporaries in the field of film.
He has a style and by now he has absolutely mastered it, with “Moonrise Kingdom” being his most immaculately shot film yet—a surreal, scrupulous style that has less in common with Anderson’s live-action films and more so with his previous film, 2009’s animated “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The result is downright stunning.
And the film—in all its imagination, surrealism, and meticulous design—could have easily been an animated effort, but I doubt it would have been filled with this much life and soul. I experienced absolute intimacy with the images on screen. “Moonrise Kingdom” is filled with a unique vitality; a special kind that trickles into you slowly, growing ever so slightly until the emotions seep out from within through laughter, tears, and pure cinematic ecstasy.
It’s a movie filled with joy and sadness, hilarity and heartbreak, and innocence that is both preserved and shattered. A dreamlike fairy-tale grounded in reality, “Moonrise Kingdom” tells the story of orphan nature scout Sam and bottled-up eldest child Suzy—pen pals who agree to runaway together while an eclectic search party seeks them out.
Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are absolutely grand as Sam and Suzy, both young actors I would love to see Anderson work with again. They embody such rare, developed features for such young characters and Anderson gets us to ache for these characters. They are both running away for reasons that, to a child, seem monumental. Even as an adult, I was absolutely overwhelmed as the undertones of sadness paved this film with layer upon layer of authentic human emotion.
Arriving at the adults in the film, I became inconsolable. Classic Anderson archetypes, quirky at their surface and depressingly tragic at their core, populate the film—from Sam’s camp leader Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), and the “sad, dumb policeman” played by Bruce Willis, who has not given a performance this great since 1999’s “The Sixth Sense.”
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a masterful achievement, easily nudging its way to the top of Wes Anderson’s body of work along with his most inspired achievements of “Rushmore” (1998) and “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001). What’s so special about ‘Moonrise’ is that it combines the best elements of these films and molds them into something brand new, yet strikingly familiar as Anderson’s autograph is stamped throughout.
I will joyfully and willingly watch this film again and again—an experience I predict will be impossible to ever grow weary of. This very well may be Anderson’s opus, his absolute masterpiece—a film I’m at a loss to find any faults with. “Moonrise Kingdom” is about as close to perfect as any film this year will hope to reach—or any year, for that matter. This is a movie that demands and deserves to be remembered. I know I will never forget it.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.