Moonrise Kingdom (12A)

3.00

Wes Anderson, 94mins. Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton

Wes Anderson's films are as formally distinctive as Peter Greenaway's, and sometimes as maddening. They are pictorial things, but less in the way of a film than, say, a graphic novel. Where Greenaway thinks like a painter, Anderson uses the camera like a cartoonist, each frame hyper-composed in colour and composition, an eccentric mini-work of art in itself.

What the frames don't have is much sense of physical or emotional movement from one to another. It's the same with the dialogue. People in Wes World don't overlap in their conversation – a character says something, then there's a pause, then another character replies. Again, it's like the thin white lines dividing one box from another in a comic strip. Some find the effect very charming.

His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, brings two sealed-off worlds into collision. It's a kind of romance, if you can imagine a romance between two lonely 12-year-olds from dysfunctional backgrounds. The year is 1965, the place an island called New Penzance off the East Coast of America. A gnome-like chorus (Bob Balaban) introduces us to the place, warning of a storm that will strike here "in three days' time", an odd note that's at once proleptic and retrospective: we're being told of something about to happen that's already happened. Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) lives with her family in a beach house where the furnishings are picturebook neat and everything else is in quiet disarray. Through her beloved binoculars, Suzy catches sight of her mother (Frances McDormand) cosying up to the local sheriff (Bruce Willis) while her father (Bill Murray) mopes about in self-pity and her brothers, raising the tone, listen to Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

On the other side of the island, a boy named Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) hasn't shown up to breakfast at scout camp. Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton) goes to investigate his tent and finds it empty, with a hole carved into the side. "Jiminy Cricket, he flew the coop!" We cut to young Sam, pipe in mouth, Davy Crockett hat on head, stalking through the countryside.

With his large spectacles and intense air he's a close relative of Max from Anderson's much-loved Rushmore (1999), clever and somewhat unpopular with his peers. He's gone AWOL so as to elope with Suzy, neither of them much given to travelling light: he's got a BB gun, a huge rucksack, his paintbox and brushes, she's brought suitcase, satchel, cat (plus cat food), books and a record player. This last item might look impractical, but how else do you have your first kiss with a Françoise Hardy record to serenade it?

Meanwhile, a posse consisting of Scoutmaster, Sheriff and Sam's khaki-clad fellows is in pursuit of the runaways, with Suzy's parents tagging along: "Our daughter has been abducted by one of these beige lunatics," says a distraught Mr Bishop.

Truth is, the chase is less important to Anderson than the chance to go to town with his team, cinematographer Robert Yeoman, production designer Adam Stockhausen and costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone. Ars est celare artem is a Latin motto – "the art is to hide the art" – which Anderson turns inside out: for him the art is to show off the art, all the time.

The eye is constantly invited to feast on his compositional finesse, the squared-off rooms with their immaculately arranged clutter, the artful tableaux, the visual rhymes and symmetries. Look at an early shot of Suzy, her red gingham dress duplicating the squares of the trellis seat she's resting on. Squares obsess this film-maker. I have never seen so much plaid in a single movie. Or take the long rectangular shot of Suzy and Sam jumping into a lake at opposite ends of the screen. Characters face one another like duellists, firing off one shot of dialogue, then waiting for the return.

This formalist approach would be fine, as I said, in a graphic novel, where the reader must supply the tones of voice and the levels of intensity. The effect is much diminished on screen, however, because Anderson's cool direction tends to flatten out the feeling. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Anderson regular Bill Murray are good as far as they go, which in moral terms isn't far at all.

Tilda Swinton as a social services witch is the one character around whom something milder than whimsy stirs: Sam, an orphan, has been rejected by his foster parents and thus could be fed into the maw of the juvenile detention system. Yet the drama feels so airless that the pathos of his situation never truly registers. That's not to blame the two young leads, who bring more to the story than was perhaps expected of them. Kara Hayward's dark-eyed moodiness is a nice counterpoint to Jared Gilman's blithe fugitive, who makes a startling confession to his beloved – "It's possible I may wet the bed later, I'm afraid" – and manages to survive with dignity intact.

Some have been calling Moonrise Kingdom a return to form, but his last few pictures surely haven't been so different for him to have anything to "return" to. Whether roaming the high seas (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), crisscrossing India (The Darjeeling Limited) or burrowing into animation (Fantastic Mr Fox), Anderson's films seem all of a piece, conjuring a private and innocent world more or less untouched by reality. It is a place designed for children with a precocious urge to be adults, the sort who would puff on corncob pipes and who see the point of both Françoise Hardy and Benjamin Britten. Or is it actually a place for adults who can't bear to part from their inner child?

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own