Released in 2012 to critical acclaim, Wes Anderson’s cult romance Moonrise Kingdom is a quirky, eccentric take on an angry and misguided romance between two budding teenagers. The piece presents itself as inviting; the themes of summer love, thirst for adventure, and escaping parents lend themselves to a sort of innocence that everyone likes to imagine exists.
The story begins in September of 1965, in the quietly ordered lives of young teenagers without school to occupy their time. During a routine morning at Camp Ivanhoe, the troupe soon discovers that self-described “least popular,” Sam Shakusky, has disappeared from his bunk and left behind a note to tender his resignation from the Khaki Scouts. Similarly, resident outburst-prone introvert Suzy Bishop has disappeared from home, and is nowhere to be found.
Soon, the audience uncovers the whereabouts of the two adolescents; having met during a church play the summer before, the two had developed a pen pal correspondence and consequently fallen in love over the last year. Similarly frustrated with their outcast status, the two formed a plot to run away from their respective environments and live off the wilderness using the skills Sam learned as a Khaki Scout. Quickly, the dual-faceted plot evolves into a frenzied search for the missing kids and a shockingly adult romance developing between the two refugees.
The entire movie is overlaid with Anderson’s signature directing style; Moonrise Kingdom plays heavily on the viewer’s response to symmetry and carefully chosen color schemes. It is rare that in the 21st century a director manages to make a solely unique style, but Anderson has managed to do just that; any of Anderson’s films are immediately recognizable due to the unorthodox idiosyncrasies of his work. The director said of his stylistic production style, “It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting.”
However, this begs an important question: at what expense does such a stylistic interpretation come? Quite frankly, the movie is almost aggressively artistic; rather than playing on the backbone of a story that held an incredible amount of charm, Anderson has opted to create an uncomfortable air around his films that allows his fans to immediately dismiss any criticism as a misunderstanding of the art. Moonrise Kingdom was almost frustrating to watch, simply because Anderson’s reimagining of young love is so lofty and unapproachable that it’s difficult to relate to. The film relies heavily on the presence of entirely silent onscreen interaction; honestly, it’s unnerving. However, completely irresponsible development of characters is masqueraded as a genuine innovation in the art of cinematography.
Moonrise Kingdom held the potential to be a fantastic movie, but fell flat due to its complete lack of self-awareness in the respect of creating art. It’s hard not to feel like this was ultimately the downfall of the piece; had Anderson scaled back his ego-fueled manic interpretation of an otherwise well constructed pubescent love story, it’s quite possible that the themes and wit of the film would have had more of an opportunity to shine.