Review: Moonrise Kingdom

bill bodkin reviews the latest from Wes Anderson…

Wes Anderson is like the cinematic version of Norman Rockwell. Like the famed painter, Anderson has own unique view of American life — painstakingly detailed, teeming with iconic actors and laced with almost unnaturally straightforward dialogue. His style, like Rockwell’s is unmistakable and the pictures he paints draws you into a world that is both familiar and fantastical.

In his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson takes back to the place where we first discovered him — following the romantic adventures of a bespeckled young man with an old soul and an earnest heart. In many ways Moonrise is very much akin to Rushmore, the movie we all fell in love with Wes Anderson and company with. It’s got a big heart, buckets of sorrow, heartfelt belly laughs and of course, the incomparable Bill Murray.

But what differentiates the two is the simplicity and sweetness of Moonrise. Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of things that are completely dark and messed up here, but all of that is outweighed by the young romance of Khaki Scout Sam (Jared Gilman) and the short-tempered Suzy (Kara Hayward). Their relationship is the heart of the film — awkwardly mature yet sincere, honest and irresistible. The chemistry these two young actors have is absolutely dynamite and steals the show from the iconic ensemble that Anderson has constructed.

Speaking of said ensemble, it might be one of Anderson’s finest. Bruce Willis stands out as the local police officer, Captain Sharp. Balding, soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Willis gives his most anti-Bruce Willis performance to date. It’s a great reminder that he’s more than just a macho action hero.

The rest of the cast hits their notes perfectly. Frances McDormand revives her character from Almost Famous and ramps up the neuroticism, Bob Balaban is wonderfully weird as the film’s narrator, Tilda Swinton is excellently evil as “Social Services” and if Bruce Willis were not in this film, Ed Norton would’ve taken the cake as the stand-out Anderson newbie. His portrayal as the aww shucks by the book Scout Master Ward is brilliant.

And no Wes Anderson film would complete without Bill Murray. As the beleaguered Walt Bishop, Murray delivers a performance that only Bill Murray can deliver. It’s hilarious, grumpy, heartfelt and sarcastic. It’s vintage Bill Murray.

Moonrise Kingdom is very much like the books that our heroine Suzy reads throughout the film — it’s lighthearted and adventurous yet grounded in a sense of reality. There’s trials and peril mixed in with romance and comedy. It’s the perfect antidote and antithesis to the normal summer fare clogging the local cineplex.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites