Published on July 2nd, 2012 | by Jordan Petersen0
REVIEW: Moonrise Kingdom
That was my three-word review, and I’m not sure how much else is needed. After all, if you really love Wes, you’ll probably really love Moonrise Kingdom. If you don’t like him, you’ll really hate this movie. And if you’re like me, and you think The Royal Tenenbaums was pretty great, Fantastic Mr. Fox was even better but you find his other films cringing and pretentious … well, then you’ll probably just sigh at the end of this one.
Moonrise Kingdom was, by far, his most pretentious film yet. From the opening shot, composed like a still-life painting and possessing of all the textural charm for which this filmmaker has become so known, one gets the sense that he has fully embraced his style, thick as it may be, and that there will be no restraint this time around. Every shot is symmetrical, most subjects are centered in the frame, and every single camera move is a tracking shot. Most of them quite fast.
This, in itself, isn’t bothersome. No, go ahead and swallow the style. That’s what you came for. Wes Anderson, at this point, is more of a brand than a filmmaker, after all. Neither worry about the unbelievably stilted dialogue. It’s on purpose, so it’s OK. We can also deal with none of his characters having real emotions. They either deliver every word deadpan, or explode in violent outbursts — some of which make it onto the screen, but all of which feel like punchlines to some tragic joke.
Again, this is all to be expected. Presumably, it’s the only language Wes Anderson knows, or at least the only one he cares to use. Everyone should probably stop expecting anything different from this hipster king. He is a known quantity.
But what you shouldn’t do, ever, as a filmmaker — and I really don’t feel like this is asking too much — you shouldn’t trick the men in your audience into feeling like pedophiles.
Apparently Wes Anderson is exempt from that kind of moral stricture. First of all, the girl he cast as the young female lead was quite pretty, but not young enough to be a cute little girl. This isn’t a problem. Plenty of wonderful characters are played by girls who are not young enough to be cute, but definitely too young to be hot, and it’s fine. What’s not fine is writing and then shooting a scene in which that character strips down to her underwear and discovers some frank aspects of sexuality thusly exposed.
The things to which Mr. Anderson cleverly alludes, beyond what is obvious and awkward, are totally irresponsible. It seems (and this is only conjecture — I haven’t spoken directly to the man) that he is trying to prove something about the audience by testing their reactions to the things he’s showing them. Well, guess what, if we all feel awkward and uncomfortable, it isn’t because you’re clever, Wes. It’s because you showed us things that were awkward and uncomfortable.
There were scenes of this movie that I really enjoyed. Lots of cool images, and even some neat ideas. But by the end, the predominating sense was that I had been in some way taken advantage of by a self-obsessed and weirdly cynical filmmaker. And I guess that’s sort of the same way I feel after all of his films (Fox excluded), except this time I didn’t enjoy it.
Perhaps I should amend my three-word review to more appropriately represent my sentiments:
Oh shut up, Wes Anderson. ♦ ♦ ♦
Jordan Petersen is SOUND’s resident sensei of all things movie-related. Recently graduated from Brigham Young University, he is now working towards a Master’s degree in film at Boston University. Check out Jordan’s filmmaking blog at twentyoneninety.blogspot.com.