Moonrise Kingdom [Blu-Ray]
Director : Wes Anderson
Screenplay : Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2012
Stars : Jared Gilman (Sam Shakusky), Kara Hayward (Suzy Bishop), Edward Norton (Scout Master Ward), Bruce Willis (Captain Sharp), Bill Murray (Walt Bishop), Tilda Swinton (Social Services), Jason Schwartzman (Cousin Ben), Frances McDormand (Laura Bishop), Harvey Keitel (Commander Pierce), Bob Balaban (Narrator), Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Roosevelt), L.J. Foley (Izod), Charlie Kilgore (Lazy Eye), Jake Ryan (Lionel), Neal Huff (Jed), Gabriel Rush (Skotak), Tommy Nelson (Nickleby), James Wilcox (Scout Master)
Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s best work in a decade, as he returns to the nimble territory precariously balanced between fairy-tale whimsy and genuine emotion that made Rushmore (1998) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) such unique treats. His most recent live-action films, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007), both felt increasingly stale, as Anderson seemed to be investing too much in the visually arresting, hyper-detailed tableau of his pseudo-worlds and not enough in the emotional undercurrents that made the characters living in those worlds worth caring about. Both of those films featured plenty of familial pathos and dysfunction, Anderson’s favorite dramatic tropes, but they felt either forced or lost in the mise-en-scene, as Anderson struggled to reconcile the patent fakery of his cinematic environments with the real-life issues of familial bonding and community he sought to address.
Just as The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Anderson’s charming foray into stop-motion animation, rejuvenated his aesthetic by fully embracing its cartoonishness, Moonrise Kingdom hums because it centers on preteen protagonists whose simultaneously adult-like intensities and childish naïveté is a welcome departure from Anderson’s fixation on childlike adults working through their self-inflicted melodramas (the film is very much a piece with Rushmore, in this respect). Granted, there are plenty of childlike adults hanging around the margins, and they are funny precisely because they play supporting roles to Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop (newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), a pair of misfit 12-year-olds who decide to run away together because they recognize they simply don’t fit in anywhere else.
As with most of Anderson’s previous films, Moonrise Kingdom takes place in a hermetically sealed world of his own making, in this case a fictional island off the coast of New England called New Penzance in the summer of 1965. Only 12 miles wide, New Penzance has no paved roads and is home to Camp Ivanhoe, a summer retreat for preteen Khaki Scouts led by Edward Norton’s sweet-and-stern Scout Master Randy Ward. Sam, a resilient orphan whose oversized owl glasses and penetrating stare don’t exactly endear him to the rest of the troop, runs away after exchanging letters for a year with Suzy, a bookish and temperamental local girl who lives in a picturesque red woodframe house with her three younger brothers and self-absorbed, detached parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Sam and Suzy’s disappearance sets off a comical search led by Scout Master Ward and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the island’s lone police officer, who, despite being not too bright, is very well meaning in his intrepid search for the missing children.
The screenplay, which was penned by Anderson and Roman Coppola (who previously collaborated on The Darjeeling Limited), follows a fairly predictable path in which Sam and Suzy move from fellow-outcast friendship to an increasingly intense puppy love that puts to shame the distance, lies, sadness, and awkwardness that defines the adult relationships from which they are fleeing (however bright and fanciful Anderson’s films are on the surface, they are always constructed around a deep well of melancholy). While irony still abounds, Moonrise Kingdom is an idealist romance that takes us back to the days of first love when everything seemed new and possible and unsullied, when an us-against-them mentality was romantic, rather than paranoid. Gilman and Hayward, both of whom are making their screen debuts, are wonderfully naturalistic in their roles, and even though we recognize them as obvious creations of an adult intelligence reaching back into the innocence of childhood, their romance feels entirely genuine; it has a sweetness to it that is only possible when the rest of the world is left behind, which is precisely what they are trying to do. The idealization of their relationship finds a fitting match with Anderson’s aesthetic, which tends toward the self-consciously stagey. It’s a storybook romance in a film that looks and feels like a moving storybook (having been shot on Super 16mm, the images have a grainy, tactile quality that parallels the rough paper of the mid-century adventure novels the film frequently invokes).
Because Anderson keeps the film’s attention largely focused on Sam and Suzy, his trademark quirkiness takes on an aura of enchantment, rather than forced oddity. Some character traits and events have little purpose outside of their inherent humor—Laura speaking to her family mostly through a megaphone; Tilda Swinton as a social services agent who always refers to herself in the first person as Social Services, as if she literally embodies the concept of government possession of orphaned children; Bob Balaban as a random narrator in a Steve Zissou red cap who supplies us with random information and dark foreshadowing; and the amusingly bizarre parade of Khaki Scouts whose various projects around Camp Ivanhoe range from the ridiculous (a Rube Goldbergian latrine), to the sublime (a treehouse perilously perched on a few feeble branches atop a towering tree)—but their presence in the margins makes them go down quick and easy. In other words, the quirk doesn’t hog the limelight, allowing the story’s underlying humanity to shine through. Anderson hasn’t necessarily evolved much with Moonrise Kingdom (although he does seem to nod toward the limitations of his art when Sam blatantly rejects Suzy’s idealized view of an orphaned life), but he has demonstrated that, with the right material, his familiar cinematic approach can yield wonderful dividends.
|Moonrise Kingdom Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy and Ultraviolet Combo Pack|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||Universal Pictures Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 16, 2012|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Moonrise Kingdom looks quite splendid in its 1080p/AVC-encoded high-definition presentation. The film was originally shot in Super 16mm, and the fineness of the grain and the detail in the image on this Blu-Ray suggests that the transfer was made directly from the original elements, rather than a 35mm blowup (that is just speculation on my part). Befitting the film’s whimsical, fairy-tale-like tone, its images are beautifully rendered like illustrations in a storybook, with strong, vibrant colors, nicely rendered detail, and excellent contrast. The overall palette of the film is slightly yellowish, which is in keeping with the film’s tone and its summertime setting. There are also no complaints about the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround soundtrack, which capably handles surround and ambient effects and gives the eclectic musical choices (particularly the classical music) a strong sense of presence, while keeping dialogue clean and clear.|
|The only supplements included on the disc are three brief (3 minutes and under) promotional featurettes that originally appeared on the film’s web site: “A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom,” which gives a quick overview of the film; “Welcome to the Island of New Penzance,” which involves a tour of the island with Bob Balaban’s character, and “Set Tour With Bill Murray,” the title of which is pretty much self-explanatory. Methinks there might be a Criterion edition some time in the future …|
Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © Universal Pictures Home Entertainment