For some time now, writer-director Wes Anderson has been making some good movies (Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums) based on the simple, common problems which assault eccentric people with as much force as they do, well, “regular” folks. This success is partly based on avoiding what Claude Chabrol called “big subjects,” notions that overwhelm the proper human scale to which movies should aspire.
With Moonrise Kingdom, falls for on oversized subject big time. His characters drown (almost literally) in a tidal wave of didacticism. Plus, his big idea manages to be both musty and dubious: While adults attempt to impose a petty order on nature, children are able to live comfortably within its rough borders.
Anderson has his cast affect a diffident manner of speech, perhaps the make the dialogue purely declarative. Significantly, the two kids talk with greater maturity.
The island’s buildings, obviously the work of grown-ups (which is a more appropriate term than adult, with the latter’s implication of experience and knowledge), trace strict geometric patterns. It starts with the camp’s V-shaped tents but extend to every home or office. Anderson highlight one red house, which has an exterior stairway and other ornamental touches, with lines of paint, lest you miss the point.
The kids meanwhile, make themselves at home in forest glades and coves. Even a confrontation between the nascent lovers and a group of young campers chasing them is drained of potential hostility thanks to its placement in the woods.
There are two subplots, but they have no purpose except to choke off the rise of alternative viewpoints. When the storm we’ve known all along is coming, its ferocity destroys what the film regards as the futility of excessive order and elevates the kids to nature’s heroes.
Anderson might have some dramatic in mind, but all Moonrise Kingdom does is repeat its premise like a useless mantra.