Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s latest outing, is delightfully silly and rambunctious. It’s also a little concerning. Here’s a preview:
Released June 29, 2012
Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Kara Hayward, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jared Gilman, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and Harvey Keitel.
* * * * *
Moonrise Kingdom opens with a narrator (Balaban), whom we see on film talking right at the camera, setting the scene. The scene is an island in 1965, days before a historically awful storm. We are introduced to Sam (Gilman) and Suzzy (Hayward) who meet in a field in order to run away together. They met a year previous and have been penpals, planning their getaway for some time. They are in love and intend to make a life for themselves.
They are also twelve.
Sam has run away from his scout troop’s camp, headed by Scoutmaster Ward (Norton), who is dedicated to his boys and the Khaki Scouts. Suzzy has run away from her lawyer parents, Murray and McDormand, and her three younger brothers. She has a temper. The Scoutmaster, the parents, and the local policeman (Willis) rouse the island in a search for the lovebirds, with the rest of the Khaki Scout troop tracking them quite effectively.
The lovebirds live in a vacuum; uncaring and unaware of the world around them. That’s why what happens with clothing and experimentation isn’t more concerning. It’s still a little much, Mr. Anderson, but it is forgivable in the wide context of the film.
The story of chasing the lovebirds down, trying to keep them apart, and their efforts to be with each other and the redemption of a few characters, is set against the backdrop of a catastrophic storm that will lay waste to the island.
This is a quirky, arty, generally easily digested film. The scenes are very distinct from each other; the characters seem to be caricatures but are actually very endearing and authentic; and the dialogue is snappy. This is not a movie for everyone, however.
You need to know that the lovebirds are twelve, they strip to their underwear at a certain part of the movie, and there is some sensual-type activity– although it’s not gratuitous and it’s very authentic to the characters and who they are. There is no sex, but there is some experimentation.
On a similar note, it’s useful that the narrator is talking right at the camera, that the colors and scenes are so clearly artificial, that the transitions are so artful, because it makes very clear that this is a story, a fantasy, an occurrence in somebody’s imagination. It makes it harmless and innocent. This is important.
Folks, it’s a Wes Anderson film. A story is told, it’s full of great characters, the story is absurd but heartfelt, and the set pieces are challenging and more about image than atmosphere. As is usual with Wes Anderson, it’s hit and miss, but mostly hit. It’s not hard for actors to fill the molds created by Wes Anderson’s screenwriting, but some of these folks do particularly well. Bruce Willis and Bill Murray do a very nice job, as do the two young actors who carry the story. Tilda Swinton is wasted and Frances McDormand is workaday.
Content warnings: some lower-level swearing, some very underage sensuality, lots of smoking
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 4
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