The opening film of the 65th Cannes Film Festival is Wes Anderson’s summery, nostalgic comedy Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Set on a small island off of the New England coast in the summer of 1965, the film tells the story of two 12-year-olds: Sam (Jared Gilman), an orphaned khaki scout, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), the unhappy daughter of a pair of dysfunctional bickering lawyers. The pair fall in love and run away together, turning the normally tranquil community on its head.
Pursued by the local sheriff Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton) and Suzy’s parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), the two young lovers attempt to construct an idyll in the eponymous islet which they rename ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ – despite the fact that Social Services have been notified and a storm is brewing. The film is crafted with what has become Anderson’s trademark attention to detail and quirky framing – with some scenes looking as if they could have been lifted straight from 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox – and he’s clearly now a prominent-enough auteur to wrangle the likes of A-Listers Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swindon in cameo roles.
However, Moonrise Kingdom lacks the genuine pathos of Anderson’s best work, which makes this into a five-finger exercise by an extremely talented director when we were perhaps hoping for a concerto. The jokes are funny; the script is intelligent and articulate; the music is a mixture of French pop and Benjamin Britten, and it looks like a brilliantly illustrated and ingenious pop-up book. However, nothing really matters in the narrative (a character gets struck by lightning with absolutely no consequences) and there is a sense that Anderson is beginning to just make long trailers rather than actual films.
The acting is generally excellent throughout, as it ought to be given the cast, and newcomer Hayward as Suzy is particularly good, but even here there is a sense that everyone knows that they are – in an Anderson movie. The familiar gestures are all on show in Moonrise Kingdom – the iconic handwriting, the colourful hues, Murray once again playing a down-and-outer to comic effect – and for Anderson fans, this will push all the right buttons. Yet there remains the suspicion that, seven features in, the American director ought to be aiming a little higher.
The 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 16-27 May, 2012. For more of our Cannes 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.