Moonrise Kingdom – Review

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) –

Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Jared GilmanKara HaywardEdward NortonBruce WillisBill MurrayTilda SwintonJason SchwartzmanFrances McDormandHarvey Keitel.

This film has got so many of all those Wes Anderson’s trademarks that it could easily become a fan’s favourite: the strange magical feel, the deadpan humour (almost Airplane! slapstick) mixed with an underlying sadness and melancholia, those classic sideways tracking shots across the sets, the reddish/sepia colour palette, Bill Murray, the quirky music… This could be nobody else’s work, but Wes Anderson’s!

And yet, at the same time, you may argue, we’ve seen it all before. Not only there’s a strange feeling of Déjà vu here permeating Moonrise Kingdom, but also the inconclusive, weightless and wobbly storytelling and the stock-characters this time feel even more exposed than they usually are. Maybe because the central story about 2 young kids who run away from home to find each other and fall in love, is so heartfelt and sweet that it almost feels out of tune with the cartoony nature of the world around them. I really wanted to fall in love for them, but everything around made me more and more aware of the trappings of such film-making style.

I’m not even suggesting that the cast is not great, because it is: Bill Murray plays slightly against his likeable self, Bruce Willis is as sweet as he’s rarely been before, Ed Norton‘s performance too is perfectly pitched and rather charming… And yet despite making this a great ensemble cast, each of them actually pulls the film in a different direction and eventually they add very little to the mix. For example, did we really need Harvey Keitels character in this film? Could Tilda Swinton be anymore two-dimensional?

This is obviously an idealised vision of adolescent relationships, where love is honest, pure, simple, uncompromising, and it is probably the best part of the Moonrise Kingdom. And yet, the quirky style, the overloaded music (really too much, too loud and too intrusive in my view. There is never a moment of silence in this film. I really despised it, I’m afraid), the over-the-top secondary characters, all enhance this feeling of hyper-reality which somehow prevents you from fully engage with the film. But then again, as I said, this is a Wes Anderson’s movie and his fans will certainly love it… I’m not so sure about the casual viewer.

As far as I am concerned, I liked it, I’m happy I saw it, I appreciated its technical skills, its meticulous look,  its quirky humour (this is one of those films that leaves a smile on your face throughout its entire length as opposed to induce out-loud laughs) but in the end it is all a bit too indulgent, slightly hollow, a bit up its own self, and in the end, it just left me a bit cold. And for a film that’s all about pure feelings and childhood, that’s probably not a great sign.


Submarine – Review


Directed by Richard Ayoade. Starring Sally HawkinsPaddy ConsidineNoah TaylorCraig RobertsYasmin PaigeGemma Chan.

Early review at recent festivals (Including Sundance and Toronto) have been quite positive on this small Welsh Independent film, which feels so much like a cross between Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze: in fact, it has indeed been compared to Rushmore, but also you can’t help seeing in Craig Roberts something from Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate.

I was less taken by it. On one hand it’s the sort of film I really want to like (Mainly because it’s been founded by the now gone British Council, but also because it’s always refreshing to see a little Indi trying to make it among those big Hollywood monsters), however I just couldn’t help feeling that not only I’ve seen it all before, but that behind the sporadic bittersweet and quirky humor, it all felt a bit too cold and calculated and in the end it was just very “gray”, just like that Welsh weather.

There are good individual isolated sharp moments, but the pace of film as a whole feels completely off. It is very self-indulgent (those moments with the 8mm footage for example, outstay their welcome) and you can’t help feeling a strange discrepancy between the  fast witty humor from the script and the actual staging of it. The film is patchy and uneven: from the very misjudged soundtrack (the score does not match the pictures nor the dialogue on the screen and the songs didn’t always work for me),  to the way it’s been filmed (very real at times but very stylized in other places). Finally, editing wise, it was too slow when it should have been faster (somewhere in the middle for example), and too fast when it should actually have been slower: the whole subplot with the parents at the end seems to resolve too quickly, for example. In fact the whole ending felt like it had been attached at the last moment and it’s too sweet and clean for this type of film.

The stuff around the kids is works a lot better than anything to do with the parents. The portrayal of the uncomfortable teenager feels quite accurate, honest and, despite the not-always-necessary voice over, somewhat poignant too. However beyond that, there were too many caricatures too, who contributed to the uneven feel I had at the end: Paddy Considine’s character was way too cartoony and the moments with his top speeches were clearly other examples something else which definitely could have been trimmed a bit.

On a silly side -note, I really didn’t like the titles at the front and the typeface of the captions in general… But that’s just a question of taste I guess.

On the whole “submarine” is an interesting yet flawed debut film but I’m looking forward to see what Ayoade does next.


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