Could this be "backlash time" for Wes Anderson? The director's return to live-action filmmaking after the stop-motion animation interlude Fantastic Mr. Fox has critics and observers split along the meaning of "more the same"; the director's unmistakably stylized universe remains as uncompromising as ever, and 2007's The Darjeeling Limited already suggested the law of diminishing returns might be setting in on his clearly defined territory. Moonrise Kingdom does bring in new elements to that universe: a location shoot for starters, and a bunch of new additions to his repertory company of actors (the most successful of which an unexpectedly moving Bruce Willis, effectively undermining his usual action-man typecasting).

     The key to the new film, though, lies in its unapologetic contrast between youth and age, disappointment and hope, experience and anticipation. As most of Mr. Anderson's films, there are a lot of adults bemoaning the wrong turns in their lives and wishing they could make up for it, but there is also a sunnier, more lyrical disposition, a desire to not make the same mistakes as everyone else, in the central plot: two teenagers (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) make a go of escaping their dysfunctional families (whether actual or adopted) and build their own magic refuge (the title's "Moonrise Kingdom") in a secluded cove in a fictional Maine island.

     Simultaneously self-deprecating Boy's Own adventure and melancholy meditation on the paths taken or not taken, Moonrise Kingdom still has a sense of a director chafing against a system of his own devising, of an archly theatrical style being again deployed to maximum effect, but there is really no point in complaining about Mr. Anderson being who he is and doing what he does, as that is part of what makes him so interesting. And the film is a charmingly realised tale of people facing choices and ready to take risks doing so, giving Moonrise Kingdom a more hopeful, uplifting mood - as if Mr. Anderson had left some fresh air inside his stuffy doll's house.

Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton; Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward; Jason Schwartzman; Bob Balaban.

Director, Wes Anderson; screenplay, Mr. Anderson, Roman Coppola; cinematography, Robert Yeoman (colour by Technicolor); music, Alexandre Desplat, Mark Mothersbaugh; designer, Adam Stockhausen; costumes, Kasia Walicka Maimone; editor, Andrew Weisblum; producers, Mr. Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson (Focus Features, Indian Paintbrush, American Empirical Pictures), USA, 2012, 93 minutes. 

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon screening room, Lisbon, May 26th 2012. 


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