It was only a matter of time until Wes Anderson made Moonrise Kingdom. His films, with their golden palette, swishing whip-pans, and romantic use of music, have an inherent nostalgia to them. The bygone eras of films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbuaums hint at a sense of regret and overwhelming responsibility that comes with aging and the passage of time. Moonrise Kingdom is a natural outgrowth of this sensibility, but that wistful, rear-view mirror perspective is relegated to the perimeter of the story, allowing for the film’s center to burst forth with the undeterred, promising energy of young love
Starring two newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, the film follows a pair of puppy love-struck youngsters after they decide to run away together. Surrounding these two is a classic Anderson-ian ensemble: some regular players in his company (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman) and some not (Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton).
Being one of the most anticipated films of this year and clearly influenced by the French New Wave, it was hardly a surprise when Moonrise Kingdom was chosen to open the Cannes Film Festival—Anderson’s first appearance at the Palais—and won rave reviews. Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw countered the claims that Anderson’s work is a collection of "supercilious oddities," instead declaring that "there is elegance and formal brilliance in Moonrise Kingdom as well as a lot of gentle, winning comedy." Manohla Dargis's review for The New York Times was equally celebratory of the work, noting how the Anderson "draws you into his fantastical worlds with beauty and humor, and while their artifice can keep you at somewhat of a distance, this only deepens the story’s emotional power."
Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson’s first live-action film since The Darjeeling Limited in 2007, finally debuted in American theaters in the last weekend of May, and it would appear that none of his audience had left his side. In its opening weekend, Moonrise Kingdom broke the box office record for per-theater average, only to be bested by Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master a few months later.
But the lasting impact of this charming love story hasn’t left the minds of filmgoers. At the first awards event of the season, the Gotham Awards, Moonrise took home the prize for Best Feature, and has since been nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. Just last week, the film named the third best of the year in Film Comment's critics poll, trailing only Holy Motors and The Master. Maybe Wes Anderson's work is too quirky for some, but few can deny a film so in tune with the hearts of the young, bravely confident in their affection, and the old, wrestling with melancholic doubt and uncertainty.
Accolades (So Far):
Winner: Best Feature, Gotham Awards
Nominated: Palme d’Or, Cannes Film Festival
Nominated for 5 Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Director and Best Feature
Nominated: Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, Golden Globes
Watch David Poland's "Cannes Sneak" with Wes Anderson for the Film Society: