Moonrise Kingdom: A Review
An impromptu date night was made perfect with this adorably off beat love story. Wes Anderson is one of my favorite film makers because he creates a world that is odd and makes our own awkward traits seem miniscule in comparison. His stories have flawed dissatisfied characters that eventually find a way to deal and gives hope to the rest of us.
When compared to his other films Moonrise Kingdom stands out because of the hopeful tone of the precocious youth. Wes Anderson’s trademark use of color and picturesque environments are ever present and really help to frame this story. You are transported to New England in 1965 on a sparsely populated island where the young lovers live. Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), an orphan, is on a mission to run away and start a life with his lady love; young Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Suzy is the daughter of two attorneys Walt and Laura played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand respectively. The two met the previous summer while Suzy performed in a church performance of Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten (whose music is present throughout the film) and began a pen pal relationship. Through the year their letters were filled with stories of how misunderstood and outsider the two kids are and a plan to run away was born.
Why I loved this film (Warning! Spoilers):
This is going to be a retelling with my review mixed in… Enjoy.
The small touches in this movie really stand out and it brings back memories of childhood. The children bring what they know to their escape and it makes you smile with each item’s reveal. Sam is very practical being a Khaki scout. He brings a camping supplies and his vast knowledge learned from his Scout Master, Randy Ward (Edward Norton). Suzy shows up at the rendezvous point in Sunday shoes, carrying a suitcase full of her books, a record player and her pet kitten. While performing an inventory (Sam’s idea) she catalogs each item and included is a supply of cat food for the kitten and extra batteries, “I forgot my comb, but I’ll just use my fingers.” The two spend several days hiking and camping out in the wilderness to get to their final destination; a secluded cove on the other side of the island.
Upon the parent’s discovery that their children have gone missing Sam’s foster parents explain that they cannot “invite him back, but that it is nothing personal” and that leads to the appearance of Social Services (Tilda Swinton). If found Sam will be placed in an orphanage or in an asylum complete with shock therapy. Extreme right? That is what Sam’s Scout Master and the island’s police officer Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) thought as well. Suzy’s parents revert to their comfort zone of judicial jargon and join the hunt for the missing children. There is an added sense of urgency to find the children as a storm of the century is headed for the island and this could spell disaster for anyone left outside.
The intense situation really helps you get down to who each of these characters are and the ensemble cast does a wonderful job. Jason Schwartzman a Wes Anderson favorite is given a small, but memorable role towards the end of the movie and really adds to the kids’ performances.
A favorite moment of mine is the secret cove. The children make their way to the cove and treat us to some inspired dance moves and innocently sweet moments. They swim in the ocean, read together, paint portraits, learn to kiss and discuss what they should name this magical cove. This escape from reality is quickly ended when the search party catches up to them and the couple is torn apart. Suzy’s father declares that they will never see each other again and the threat of Social Services looms for Sam.
Edward Norton always does a superb job and this movie is no exception. His nightly Scout Master logs illustrate how lost and perhaps overwhelmed he is when he realizes that the boys in his troop are able to stray from their routines Randy Ward has a similar personality to Norton’s Death to Smoochy character Sheldon Mopes in the sense that he honestly believes in what he is doing and though you get a sense that he is not all together sure of himself he has a great amount of heart.
When the children manage a second escape with the help of Sam’s formerly hostile troop, Scout Master Randy and Captain Sharp, buddy up again to find the missing children, going above and beyond when Social Services enter the picture. Social Services adds a physical villain to the story and more motivation for the young couple to get off this island. This troop enlists the help of Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) who despite being an adult and knowing better helps these kids with a marriage ceremony and escape supplies.
In the end all the characters come together and during this massive storm and are faced with life altering decisions. The kids have a potential Romeo & Juliet moment thinking they must choose between jumping off the church steeple and never seeing each other again. This almost tragic decision is halted when Captain Sharp decides to instead take a leap and open up his life to Sam. Suzy’s parents provide some expert legal advice and help Sharp eliminate the threat of Social Services. The island is left weather-torn, but the families are intact. The last scene mimics the beginning of the movie, but with lots of sun and Sam painting while the others read and listen to music on the record player. The painting turns out not to be of the family sitting in front of him, but of the cove which has since been named: Moonrise Kingdom.
I thought the moments between newcomers Jared and Kara was the most entertaining thing about the movie. They are talented and held their own next to the rest of the cast. If you are a fan of indie type comedys, I believe this is a perfect movie to go watch. You are grinning and laughing throughout and leave feeling happy for the characters.