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Contrived Pretentious Lifeless Style over Substance
Moonrise Kingdom is charming, quirky, cute, affable, well-composed, sentimental, nostalgic and pragmatic; and I HATED IT. When it comes to Wes Anderson films, there are three guarantees: children will act like adults, girls will carry around suitcases, and parents will not understand - Moonrise Kingdom cashes in on the Anderson promises with much aplomb. If you have never seen a Wes Anderson film you might find Moonrise Kingdom to be magical and unique. If you have seen Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums, Life Aquatic, and Darjeeling Limited, you will find Moonrise Kingdom to be a tired regurgitation of a one-trick-pony director who will forever try to recreate the popular and artistic success of The Royal Tennenbaums, his truly benchmark work. Anderson is a very creative artist, who freely steals from French New Wave and Italian Neo-surrealism, to craft highly choreographed and visually intricate films that specifically show the audience exactly what Anderson likes and how he likes to show these things; he is an artist who works exclusively in a personal space and so far hasn't compromised his personal artistic vision. And there is also the rub! Anderson is incapable of working outside his space; where he once filmed "outside the box"...he now is trapped in this box and ironically appears no longer able to think outside that box - he is a hostage of the aesthetics and style that define him. A tale set in the 1965 about two pre-teens who fall in love and escape into a boy-scout fantasy of an adventure, Moonrise Kingdom, while displaying the very artistic template that made him a favorite of cinematophiles, is also incredibly lifeless, pretentious, contrived and frankly, poorly written. A stand-out cast featuring Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Frances McDormand are wasted on underwritten cardboard cutout characters that are weighed down by hackneyed clichés and insipid dialog. I do give kudos to the main two leads - the children - they give the film its only signs of life; Kara Hayward would not look out of place in a Goddard or Fellini piece. While the story is mainly about unhappiness, disenfranchisement, and the ubiquitousness of love vs. duty, it also provides no real substance regarding these themes, meandering along until its trite conclusion. Moonrise Kingdom is a film that suffers the failure of style over substance - in so much as Wes Anderson's signature moves such as tracking from perfectly composed room to perfectly composed room, are now too obvious and no longer meld in the wholeness of the cinematic aesthetic, but instead point out, too glaringly, that you are watching a Wes Anderson film. There is a difference between suddenly seeing a Stanley Kubrick image and saying "oh yeah, this must be a Kubrick film" to watching a Wes Anderson film and throughout the entire film you are drubbed to oblivion with the fact that you are watching a Wes Anderson film. Within 10 minutes of the opening, I was tired of seeing what I was watching - it was so contrived and such a shameless display of idiosyncrasy that the film became a quest to find something new and fresh in it, and unfortunately there is none to be found. With a script that is full of humor but none of it funny, full of quirky characters but none of them interesting, and full of pretty visuals that add nothing to the story, Moonrise Kingdom seems like the death knell of the prototypical Wes Anderson film. But I doubt this will ever stop him - I applaud his artistic integrity and refusal to compromise with mainstream Hollywood, but ultimately he is becoming Quentin Tarantino - a one-note carnivalist forever trying to recreate the success of his early work (Reservoir Dogs is still by far Tarantino's best work and all subsequent films are the recyclage of Pulp Fiction, the film where QT blew his entire artistic wad, just like Anderson did with The Tennenbaums) by insisting on a personal style that is adored by many but offers nothing new to the medium through which the artist tries to communicate. Like Bill Murray's character, when told to stop feeling sorry for himself, I ask... "why?"
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