"This is a Wes Anderson film," says the first line of Todd McCarthy's review of "Moonrise Kingdom" in The Hollywood Reporter. And that pretty much seems to sum it. Anderson, directing his seventh film, has apparently mined more of the same territory: funny, charming, sweet, intricate, poignant, and quirky. If you enjoy his work, most accounts suggest you'll like this one too. If you've grown tired of his style, well, prepare to grow tireder.
McCarthy describes "Kingdom" as "a willfully eccentric pubescent love story in which even the most minute detail has been attended to in the manner of the most obsessive maker of 19th century dollhouses" (Yep. Sounds like a Wes Anderson movie). He says the Andersonian trademarks are all here: geometric camera angles, retro soundtrack, Bill Murray, etc. Murray plays the father to a young girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward) who falls for an orphan named Sam (Jared Gilman). Frances McDormand plays Murray's wife; she's having an affair with a local cop played by Bruce Willis. When Scout steals Suzy away from summer camp, all hell breaks loose, or at least as much hell as Anderson's carefully manicured aesthetic will allow. "Anderson is able to express sincere personal connection and compatibility while employing a highly artificial style," writes McCarthy. "Even in the most incidental scene, there is always an arresting design quality to divert the eye."
Those eye-diverting visuals were shot in an unusual format, according to L.A. Weekly's Karina Longworth: Super 16mm, which, she says, gives the film a visual grain that lends "the image a wonderfully tactile depth and life." She likewise calls it "the ur-Wes Anderson film," noting the presence of co-screenwriter Roman Coppola ("The Darjeeling Limited"), onscreen appearances by Murray and Jason Schwarztman and "the hermetic world defined by its highly-specific, often too-perfect design." But, she adds, "it's also his most fully-realized work, with much of the tics that served as distancing effects in previous films… here fully a part of the fabric of the film's period construction and its story." Longworth ultimately sees "Kingdom" as a "richly-shaded portrait of young love."
Ms. Longworth, Tim Grierson at Screen Daily sees your richly-shaded portrait of young love and raises you one delicate period love story. Grierson also agrees that Anderson is very much working in his own world here, writing that "those who have complained that Anderson makes the exact same twee, precious, mannered deadpan comedy every time out will have plenty here to further their argument," but he also notes that "this bittersweet bauble so confidently goes about its business that it’s difficult to deny that Anderson knows his milieu and how to dramatize it eloquently." He gave his lowest marks to the adult members of the cast, who Grierson says tend to "drag down the story," while praising the cinematography by Robert Yeoman, the use of Rhode Island locations, and the focus on the young outcasts on the run.
In other words, the critics are not only largely in agreement, they're basically saying the exact same thing: it's Wes Anderson doing Wes Anderson (or "Anderson being Anderson,"as Jeff Bayer of The Scorecard Review put it). But not everyone loves a "Wes Anderson film" — Sasha Stone at Awards Daily says she "found the modest story much better than the over-saturated style adorning it" and also notes that she would like "to see the same story directed by someone who doesn’t yet have a defined style that he or she must adhere to but can feel free to find the bare truth." If your blood Anderson level has reached toxic levels already, you may want to avoid this film, or at least avoid operating heavy machinery after you watch it, or at least avoid using weird metaphors that don't make much sense in a piece about it.
Make up your mind quickly, though; unlike a lot of Cannes Film Festival premieres, this one's making its way to our shores soon. Focus Features releases "Moonrise Kingdom" in select U.S. theaters on May 25.
Instant Twitterverse Reaction:
"'Moonrise Kingdom' was a great opener for #Cannes2012 – elegant, eccentric and charming"
"'Moonrise Kingdom' – Whimsical, charming and honestly a lot of fun. There's nothing like a Wes Anderson film, that's for sure. #Cannes
"'Moonrise Kingdom,' the #Cannes2012 opener, from Wes Anderson–v. droll tale of young love & adolescent isolation. The festival starts well."
"Faulting 'Moonrise Kingdom' for looking too 'Wes Anderson-ish' is like complaining about Matisse's blue nudes for not being in other colors."
"'Moonrise Kingdom' (C+) Three courses of dessert, smothered in Desplat. Appealing blush, witty accents, but, as ever, all love and no passion."