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Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom  2012By far, this is one of the best films I have seen in the last five years. Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s finest work. Set in 1965, a pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them. What follows is a hilarious and amazingly beautiful adventure that takes our young characters on a grand Coming-of-Age journey.

Anderson displays a very stylistic and un-conventional approach here, not only with his story telling, but with his camera techniques as well —  utilizing a number of dolly shots and long zoom-in’s on characters. I wasn’t huge on the continued overuse of these techniques. However,  I can understand it in the context of the overall style and tone of the film, making for an interesting analysis into why these particular shots are used and when.

The core theme here is true love, and what that means in a world filled with routine and hypocrisy. Anderson poses the question:  Is it possible that the truest form of love is found in childhood, as this love is found in a world that is completely removed from routine and the worry of external factors? I thought this was a great message and one that could be argued as being very true as I, for one, believe it to be.

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman are the young leads in Moonrise Kingdom 


The film also addresses the hypocrisy of the adult world, and how we adults often commit virtually the same crimes we preach to our children not to.

I thought the film captured a fantastic moment in childhood as well: first love, and a companionship that can only be found in our tender years.

Another great thing about how this story is told is its simplicity, especially in terms of the love shared between our two main characters. Nothing is over dramatized or over-the-top in any way. There is no grand music or in-your-face actions to spoon feed us what we should be feeling. It is all said in little simple, real (and sometimes raw) moments. The naturalistic portrayals, especially of Sam (Jared Gilman), the main male protagonist, are extremely well played out. I’d go as far as to say that this is one of the most pitch perfect performances from a child actor I have ever seen. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward (Suzy) are another two great examples of child actors who have given amazing performances in their debut film.  Their individual portrayals are so true and so believable in the environment, with some really nice, small moments between them as well.  Besides recognizing the talents of these young actors, kudos must go to Anderson on the direction as well.

Sam and Suzy on the Beach in Moonrise Kingdom


I loved the locations used, the color scheme of the film and the production design. The costumes are fantastic and vibrant and the beach exteriors are majestically beautiful. This is all accompanied by a great soundtrack that is filled with a range of different tracks and genres of music.

My only real criticism of the story was the motivation of some of the characters and the lack of justification for their actions without prior indication. I won’t say anything past that as it would contain spoilers. In the context of the film as a whole, though, this was a minor issue.

I really loved this film. In fact, I adored it. To me, this film illustrates how you tell a story and it should be used as a prime example of innovative, original and downright good cinema in the 21st century.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Official Trailer

The movie at IMDB

Rating: 9/10

PhoenixEast’s Rating System:

<5 Bad/Fail
5 Borderline Pass/Poor
6-6.5 Average
7-7.5 Good
8-8.5 Great
9-9.5 Amazing
10 Masterpiece

More reviews by the author


  1. Great article PhoenixEast, I’m glad you liked Moonrise Kingdom so much. I’m glad to hear it has a killer cast and fantastic cinematography. It’s always fun to see a movie that reminds me it’s OK to dream. I have to admit that I have always liked Bruce Willis, so that appeals to me as well.

  2. As usual I’m staying well clear until all the hype is as good as dead so I can go into this as fresh as possible.

    • Fair enough Steven.

      Sometimes hype can definetely affect your interpretation of a film. This is why I have waited to see The Dark Knight Rises as well. It is coming out of release soon and now is the time I will go and see it.

  3. Ahhh no.

    This is a shame, a real shame.

    I will try to breakdown your comments, but it looks like it is going to be another case of you either love it or you don’t, which is very much the reception for Wes Anderson. Some people absolutely love him, like myself, and some people find him pretencious.

    “The plot is heavily influenced by James Barrie`s Novel Peter Pan — (Sam and Suzy — Peter and Wendy)”

    Ok, there are definetley similarties in the relationship, but I do not believe this to be a direct influence, and I don’t think you can compare the two stories. You say “The story is lacking that magical feel to it”, well that’s probably becuase one is based around a magical being, and the other is set in the real world (or at least the world as Anderson sees it). I thought Moonrise Kingdom was very magical in it’s own way though.

    “yet hardly any serious issues are addressed”
    Hardly any issues? What about neglect, depression, family dysfunctionality, conformity of marriage, intricate relationships? All very serious issues, but told in Anderson’s style. You also say “European films tend to do it with much more realism and sensibility”, but that is to completely miss the point of Anderson’s style. He tells stories set in a comedic world. Dramas set in comedy, set in odd worlds that still hold a sense of realism in it’s character relationships. Anderson’s world in itself is not one of realism. The enitre film is meant to be played out like it is one of Suzy’s stories, hence the very odd characters and intense color grade. I disagree that European films do it with more sensibility as well, the Europeans just do it very differently. Coming of Age films do not always have to be dark and intensely dramatic, I loved this refreshing and inovative approach to the genre.


    • I have heard similar statements being made about the films of Tim Burton – that people either like them or hate them. ( for the record I don`t like them ). Moonrise Kindom is the very first film of Wes Anderson I have seen – but I did not like the way the story was presented. You know that I do not argue for the sake of arguing , but will be dishonest if I say that the story and the way it was presented intrigued me . Yet as I said in my previous comment – it is not that I disliked the film , just can not praise it as much as you have. You are right I like a lot of drama in the movies – but I also like tasteful humor like in ” The butcher boy ” or ” Mickybo and Me ” – I guess you would say I say that as I am not found of experimentation within the genre – which is partly true or at least not each approach works for me. I can promise you that when the DVD is released I will watch the film again .

  4. After such a raving review I had high expectations for the film – but while I could say I liked it , I was not impressed. The plot is heavily influenced by James Barrie`s Novel Peter Pan – (Sam and Suzy – Peter and Wendy ), but while one can only appreciate such influence – the story is lacking that ” magical ” feel to it.

    Adventure and Coming of age experiences – those were present , yet hardly any serious issues are addressed. Jared Gilman`s character Sam was an unlikely hero – I agree with you on his raw acting talent. Overall the acting performances were quite decent .

    Some scenes were exceptional , but while the first half of the film held my attention – by the 40th minute I felt a bit bored .

    When it comes to portraying first love – European films tend to do it with much more realism and sensibility – take the Jean-Claude Sussfelds Quand j’avais cinq ans je m’ai tué (When I Was Five I Killed Myself) – it doesn’t feel half as manipulative as Moonrise kindom.


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