Set in the fictitious New Penzance, an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, “Moonrise Kingdom” focuses on Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, secretly rendezvous, and run away into the forest. Sam ran away from his Khaki Scout campsite where Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) is the troop leader. As various authorities try to hunt them down, an intense hurricane is approaching the shore. The adults act more like children than the Khaki Scout Troupe! Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff on the hunt in a role very different from his type cast “Die Hard” roles. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are the bickering young girl’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. Supporting characters show up toward the end of the film including Tilda Swinton as a social worker demanding to see the boy and Jason Schwartzman is the cousin of the Scout Master.
As someone who adores independent film, I love Wes Anderson as a filmmaker. There is a quirky, deadpan, sarcastic tone within his films which make me cackle. There are the ‘no-cut’ extended shots that allow for the viewer to take in the entire scene like you’re reading the details in an attention grabbing narrative book. Anderson’s pseudo ‘American self-aware’ combined with a ‘French New Wave’ vibe feels unique in a mostly contrived movie industry. The visual tone is spectacular, consumed with indie quirk and the film is an original story with elements based on Wes Anderson’s childhood.
Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman carry ‘Moonrise’ as young children who are in love and are growing up rather quickly for their age. The interaction between Hayward and Gilman as a young couple is amusing and delightful. There is a scene wherein these kids discover their sexuality with one another in an uncomfortable yet experimental manner. They are hitting the age of puberty and ‘Moonrise’ doesn’t shy away from this fact at all as it is used as the plot mechanic to explain why they run away together. As a viewer I felt a little uncomfortable and it seemed like we were violating their discovery as they explored their sexuality in their own way. This one particular scene felt extremely daring for our politically correct and ‘play-it-safe’ era of filmmaking as we are basically watching a pair of 12 year old kids pass second base with each other. I even feel unnerved and uncomfortable mentioning this scene in this review but their exploration is done with such innocence and grace that it conveys a sense of ‘purity’.
The “Khaki Scout Troop”. They have their own distinct personalities and dangerous behavior. One brief montage shows them gather weapons, (like a spiky Flail; long and sharp knives; etc), as some in the Troop talk a big game with each other. They carry these dangerous weapons around without adult moderation and are eerily similar to “Lord of the Flies”. With their weapons ready, and cocky attitudes in place, the members of the Troop think they know how to handle intense situations only to be proven false as the plot progresses! Ironically, and in a humorous way, the children were better behaved then the bratty immature adults of the film which is showcased throughout.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is the best Wes Anderson film since “The Royal Tenenbaums.” One element both films share is the weird and bizarre notion of children acting like adults. If ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ featured less established and not very capable actors with a less talented director then “Moonrise Kingdom” wouldn’t have worked as a film. However, Wes Anderson knows how to make a film and do it right. It feels like his most personal work based on his intuitive feelings and personal story. A refreshingly original screenplay, the imbalanced yet symmetrical cinematography and the detailed set designs make ‘‘Moonrise Kingdom’’ one of the best films of 2012… so far.
Rating: 9 out of 10