Imagine a Tim Burton film except that it isn’t totally shit and you get an idea of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Moonrise shares many of the features of, say, Burton’s Big Fish. For example, a knowing narrator, bright colours and painterly scene setting, a sense of wonder and a childlike desire to shed the constraints of modern adult life, a spirit of fantasy where anything can happen and often does. While I hated Big Fish, I found Moonrise Kingdom far more enjoyable. It’s a question of tone and judgement.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
In a fantasy film where anything can happen, the question of tone and judgement becomes all important for the writer and director. Unbound by real-life probabilities or cause and effect, there is a thin line to walk between annoying self-indulgence and a bravura display of unrestricted artistic freedom. Moonrise Kingdom is also helped by a far stronger cast than Big Fish, with heavyweights such as Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton and a vanity-free performance from Bruce Willis. Even the child leads turn in better performances than Ewan McGregor in Big Fish. The other important difference between the films is that Moonrise Kingdom is more explicitly a comedy, which I think is essential in deflating the more self-important aspects of fantasy.
Review continues below...
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Moonrise is clearly inspired by real incidents from someone’s childhood, and the authenticity that comes from real life seeps through the wilder elements of the film and keeps the whole thing grounded. Is that to say that any of the events or even character interactions is believable? No. But there is a grain of truth behind them, some more mundane real-life anecdote that helps keep things on the right side of that thin line.
Personal Score: 6/10
This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on the BBC's Top 21st Century films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.
For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.