Jared Gilman

Criterion Files

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson is known for getting his inspiration from a variety of sources. While Anderson’s signature visual quirks make his films unquestionably his own, the director’s images, themes, and characters also emerge through an amalgamation of materials that inspire him, whether the source be the stories of J.D. Salinger or the pathos of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. But most of Anderson’s references are to other works of cinema, as detailed in this five-part video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz, which details Anderson’s particular influence by auteurs ranging from Orson Welles to Hal Ashby. However, certain films anchor their influence more directly than others. For instance, The Life Aquatic was greatly inspired by Federico Fellini’s post-Dolce Vita work, and The Darjeeling Limited is dedicated to celebrated Indian auteur Stayajit Ray. In the weeks since the Cannes premiere and commercial release of Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, several critics have noted that only does the film seem to be directly influenced by a specific director, but one particular film by that director. Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard’s colorful, whimsically anarchistic couple-on-the-run film from 1965 seems to bear a great deal of similarity to Moonrise Kingdom, which takes place the year that Godard’s film was originally released in France (Pierrot’s US release was delayed until 1969, where it stood curiously opposite Godard’s polemical late-60s work). Having read several reviews that cite Pierrot‘s influence on Moonrise, I reflected back on both films, and here are some of the […]

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In Wes Anderson‘s latest film, the incredibly charming Moonrise Kingdom, young lovers Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman) run away together into the woods of the fictional New Penzance Island – already a fool’s errand (and only fools fall in love), but one made even harder by Suzy’s insistence on bringing along a suitcase filled with stolen storybooks. While the sci-fi-tinged tales are not actually real, their beautiful covers (crafted by six different artists) sure look real, and they fit right into the decidedly Andersonian world of the film. Anderson originally wanted to include the books in an even bigger way than how they appear in the film – when young Kara reads aloud to Sam during their camp-outs, Anderson wanted the stories to actually come alive. The filmmaker said, “At one point in the process, when she’s reading these passages from these books, I’d thought about going into animation.” While that didn’t come to pass (and Anderson certainly knows from animation, based on his wonderful stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox), the director couldn’t let go of the idea, and decided to craft an animated short as a special treat for lovers of the film (as first reported by ComingSoon last week).

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Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in Moonrise Kingdom

It’s the summer of 1965, and a storm is heading towards New Penzance Island. The small dot of land is home to a few permanent residences, but it’s also a seasonal destination for a troop of Khaki Scouts who camp amidst the lush green forests and golden fields. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) awakes one morning to discover the troop’s least liked member, Sam (Jared Gilman), has gone missing. Elsewhere on the island the Bishop family realizes their daughter Suzy (Kara Hayward) has also disappeared. The two pre-teens fell for each other the year prior during a brief, chance meeting, and have now taken off on an adventure as young lovers are prone to do (in movies at least). Sam and Suzy soon have half the island searching for them, but being such a small, sparsely populated place that search party consists almost entirely of the Scout Master, the local constable, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents, Walt and Laura (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand). Wes Anderson‘s latest film splits its time between the kids on the run and their mostly adult pursuers, and in doing so it tells two sides of a story that offer equal amounts of humor, whimsy and heartbreak. It’s a return to form for the director and his first to follow-up on the promise of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums as it highlights the wide-eyed possibilities of youth and the harsh reality of adulthood.

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Moonrise Kingdom appears to be a delicate fancy of a film – an assessment you suspect might entertain Wes Anderson – offering no more ground-breaking a story than young love, with the director’s traditional preoccupation with whimsy, and creating such artfully created landscapes and characters that they flirt outrageously with magic realism, though without explicit realisation of that concept. But there are weightier issues at hand, of parental neglect, of revolution (not just sexual but also anti-establishment), and it seems completely appropriate that Anderson chose to set it in as provocatively important a time as 1965. The film follows two young lovers – Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) – who escape their lives to run away together, and the ensuing chaos of their parents and the local authorities’ attempts to find them: no more than a gentle plot that suggests nothing of the drama and comedy that subsequently unfolds.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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