Wes Anderson may be considered by some a one-note filmmaker, but he strikes it beautifully.
Trading the Italian coast and the world of stop-motion animation for mid-1960s New England, writer-director Anderson once again crafts an obsessively detailed world with Moonrise Kingdom. Although his twee impulses have only intensified over the past decade, Kingdom is the best vehicle yet for Anderson's compulsions: spot-on re-creations of young-adult literature, evoking the pop culture of bygone decades, and the things that go unsaid between parents and children.
By now, Anderson's artistic inclinations are no secret, so enjoying Moonrise Kingdom really hinges on how insufferable one considers his films, which are built like fragile, painstakingly intricate dioramas. Anderson and his stable of collaborators have created an inimitable cinematic style, which perfectly suits the wistful tale conjured by Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola.
Set on the fictional island of New Penzance, off the coast of New England, Moonrise Kingdom follows Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), a pair of preteens in a secret romance. Sam, an industrious Khaki Scout, devises a plan with Suzy for them to run away together, which sets off a three-day, islandwide search party, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), policeman Capt. Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).
The autumnal, briskly paced film very consciously evokes the cinema of the period, even as it indirectly alludes to Anderson's own work (it's impossible not to view Sam and Suzy as a miniature Max Fischer and Margot Tenenbaum, respectively).
Moonrise Kingdom is a fine showcase for its adult actors, although it's Gilman's and Hayward's guileless work carrying the film past some of its more frank moments (a tender dance shared by the two underwear-clad children inspired nervous titters in the screening I attended).
Filled with longing and dry humor, along with an aching eye for detail, Moonrise Kingdom is as much an elegiac postcard to youth as it is a showcase for Wes Anderson's exacting, quirky sensibilities.
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Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram pop music critic, 817-390-7713