Tuesday

Wes Anderson and Moonrise Kingdom

I finally watched Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe it was the fact that so many people told me it was good, but I felt disappointed by the film. I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson, but I wasn't a big fan of it.

Let's break down Anderson's feature films into groups based upon the films' co-writers (Anderson co-writes all his films)

The Owen Wilson films:
Bottle Rocket
Rushmore
The Royal Tenenbaums

The Noah Baumbach films:
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Roman Coppola films:
The Darjeeling Limited
Moonrise Kingdom

The first three films that Anderson made, which he co-write with actor Owen Wilson, are hat amde his reputation. It's pretty easy to see why. I still remember seeing Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums in the theater–and have seen both of them since–and loved both.

The Baumbach films feel like Baumbach's work in many ways. They're much the result of a melding of their different sensibilities. Many of Baumbach's films are about families–the ones we chose and the ones we're given, and those two films definitely have those signs.

Now I'm not a fan of the films Anderson co-wrote with Coppola. I liked the film that Coppola wrote and directed, CQ–visually it was gorgeous and it was interesting, but there wasn't a lot there there, to borrow a phrase. I was not a fan of The Darjeeling Limited–it's the weakest of Anderson's films to my mind.

Moonrise Kingdom is for me the second weakest.

Anderson's films have always been set in their own worlds, and I love that aspect of them, the slightly unreal, off-kilter world which is almost exactly like our own. It's visually stunning, but as crazy as things may get, the events of the films are always grounded in emotional truth and emotional realism. As wacky as things may get in Life Aquatic, the family dynamics are real and when Wilson's character dies, it punches you in the gut just as hard as it does the characters.

In Moonrise Kingdom, the acting among the adults is top notch (hard not to with that cast) and has what I think may be Bruce Willis' finest performance. All of Anderson's films have a certain fable quality but they're grounded by the emotion. In Moonrise Kingdom the emotions are those of young children, which is fine, but there's little more than that. The adults on the island are going through things but it's just background. The kids are just kids. They don't grow or change in the course of the film or learn from the events and actions depicted.

I mentioned Bruce Willis earlier. The film has some of his best acting and in the end, his character plays a major role in the events of the film. If his character had a bigger role in the film–think on par with Bill Murray's character in Rushmore–and split between him and the kids, then I think that it would have been a much stronger film and a much more interesting film.

When I mentioned that I saw Moonrise Kingdom, my mother said that she liked the film and "it was cute." It was. But it wasn't any more than that.

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