Moonrise Kingdom is now available on DVD and Pay-for-View. In an eerie coincidence, I chose the film without knowing that a storm of epic proportions played a significant role in the fictional narrative. Still fresh in my mind were the scenes of devastation NBC broadcast during last night’s telethon for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
I was struck by a feeling that a storyboard defined the highly-stylized film, dictating acting style, the lighting and set design. Every image was composed, more like still photographs or paintings than film. So strong was one image, a girl holding binoculars, that throughout the remaining minutes of the film, I itched to recall a particular painting: Alex Colville’s To Prince Edward Island.
Bob Balaban played the narrator, necessary to ground the film, for audiences who might be confused, like the Nonagenarian. She moaned with exasperation, unable to “make head nor tail” of the film, which is essentially a homage to nearly everything. Shakespeare’s Tempest; J. M. Barrie‘s Peter Pan; Scorsese’s Hugo; Alex Colville or Andrew Wyeth’s paintings; the films of Georges Méliès; and Road Runner cartoons!
The woman-child heroine recalled Joan of Arc – old beyond her years, while still a child months from her first menses. Certain, courageous and seemingly mad, by film’s end she and her partner in crime, the man-child Sam, were the only mature characters in the film. The adult characters were dysfunctional and self-centered, failed role models.
Set in 1965, the sets were decorated with items grounded in reality. We had a Corning Ware coffee peculator, white ceramic with blue flowers and a stainless steel collar. A recording of A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra used as a metaphor in the beginning of the film was played by my 1960′s elementary school music teacher to inculcate an intellectual appreciation of the parts of an orchestra. (I preferred 100 Men and a Girl, the Deanna Durban film.)
Directed by Wes Anderson from a script he co-wrote, the film captured the imagination of an unlikely cast – Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray and Harvey Keitel. If star power influences your choice of film, Moonrise Kingdom has it. If fantasy and magic draw you to film, this film delivers it. Moonrise Kingdom failed to connect with me, because too much effort was spent on homage rather than emotional substance.