Anderson Country

The grown-ups – or are they? – in Moonrise Kingdom (left to right) Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis.

Before I start, an apology for absense.  Those of you who know me well enough will not be surprised to learn that the recent lack of features and reviews on The Coops Review has been down to one thing and one thing only.  Tennis.  My usual symptoms appeared during the French Open and developed so rapidly that the Wimbledon men’s singles final nearly put me intensive care.  I have, needless to say, made a full recovery and normal – dare I say it? – service is now resumed ……….

Title:                       Moonrise Kingdom

Certificate:              12a

Director:                  Wes Anderson

Major players:          Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand

Out of five?              4

Wes Anderson isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – and his first name means he’s often confused with Wes Craven.  The two couldn’t be more different.  Anderson is the one you go to if you like quirky, gently humorous and ironic.  After that, it’s down to whether your view of the world chimes with his – and whether or not you like Bill Murray, an Anderson regular.

However, if you do like Anderson’s movies, it’s almost a dead cert that you’ll be happy with his latest, Moonrise Kingdom.  The difference this time is that you won’t have had to search to find it at a cinema, because this is probably the most mainstream film he’s ever made – and, as a result, the most widely distributed.  Don’t, by the way, take my use of “mainstream” to indicate a decline: the film is full of typically Anderson touches and shows he’s very much on form.

The story centres a New England island in 1965 where two youngsters – the boy is on scout camp and the girl lives on a coastal house with her parents and brothers – run away together.  Their disappearance leads to them being pursued by various groups on the island, from the scout troop and its control-freak leader (played by Edward Norton) to her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and the local cop (Bruce Willis).  But whether the grown-ups or the children are better equipped for the outdoor life – and life in general – is open to question.

Mixing the director’s sense of the ridiculous with a wistful nostalgia – scenes are filmed with a yellow wash for warmth – it shows the adults as being far more dysfunctional than the two children they regard as being problematic.  Frances McDormand is so detached from her husband and children that she hardly talks to them, choosing instead to use a loudhailer.  Scout master Edward Norton is a maths teacher during term time, so he spends his entire life surrounded by other people’s children, but when he loses command of his troop, he crumbles before your eyes.  And Tilda Swinton’s Social Services – she doesn’t have a proper name – is deeply unsympathetic and dresses like a cross between an air hostess and a member of the Salvation Army.

There’s a touching innocence at the heart of the film, seen in the relationship of the runaways (nicely played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward).  Both are regarded as misfits – the boy is an orphan and unpopular with all the other scouts, the girl is prone to violent outbursts – but, together, they share a close and caring bond that is beyond the adults’ comprehension.

Anderson, as ever, likes to tease his audience by slipping in references to other works.  When the boy initially escapes from his tent at scout camp, he does so via a hole in the canvas covered by a map – a la Shawshank.  But Anderson has also drawn unusually heavily on British culture for this movie, which could go over the heads of other audiences.  When the scout troop, armed with home-made weapons, spread out in the fields to look for the runaways, they are nothing less than a juvenile Dad’s Army.

And the soundtrack to the film uses large sections of Benjamin Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, which has such a presence in the film that it becomes almost a character in its own right.  I defy you not to walk out of the film humming it to yourself!

If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film, then this is a great starting point: at the very least, its warmth will make you smile, if not chuckle.  And if you know and enjoy his movies, then you’ll be at home with the typically quirky approach, almost deadpan acting and doll’s house style interiors.  Whichever camp you’re in, enjoy it!

A podcast edition of this review is now available to download at


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