Moonrise Kingdom is uniquely quirky, captivating, and one of best the films of the year.
The central theme to Moonrise Kingdom is the danger inherent in labeling certain elements of society as strange or even dangerous without looking a little deeper. Yet the film is so much more than a simple soapbox statement: it's genuinely funny, incredibly honest about itself, existing in a world that feels both familiar and a little off center, much like its main characters. Set among the pine and maple trees on a fictitious 1965 New England island called New Penzance, two children (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman) decide to run away, rejecting the small-town labels they've been given, and touching off a manhunt by the police and local scout master. The journey is the truly funny part, immersing the audience in a perfect mixture of droll humor and slapstick, starting with our Narrator (Bob Balaban, 2010) as he lists off the nature of the island and the massive storm which will sweep through in less than three days time. The premise seems ludicrous, that two children each under the age of 13 could survive and prosper on their own with three books, a record player, a kitten, and some camping equipment. If you're thinking the same thing, then you're halfway to enjoying Moonrise, which prides itself on bending reality into something truly quirky. As the manhunt begins, we're introduced to Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton, Incredible Hulk) who mobilizes his small troop into action when Sam (Gilman) resigns from the company and makes a break for it. His letter to Ward is a series of funny quick edits of the words voiced over by Sam. Soon, police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction) joins the hunt, only to learn that Sam is an orphan who's recently been ditched by his foster family; the cutaway scene between Sharp, Ward, the phone operator, and the former foster family is hilarious and one of the film's best scenes. We soon learn that Sam is not the only one to reject society's harsh treatment, as Suzy (Hayward) joins him to make camp at a distant alcove of the island. As they dance, kiss, and sleep under the stars, we're reminded of our youth when we actually thought running away and hunting for our food was actually plausible (trust me, this recently happened in my other career so I know kids think it still has merit). As the storm arrives and floods the island, the adults (including Tilda Swinson, Harvey Keitel, and Bill Murray) must work together to save Sam and Suzy who by this time have become little versions of Romeo and Juliet.
Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore) paints beautiful brush strokes with such perfection that its fantasy world of bright colored wallpaper, chain smoking cub scout leaders, and highwater pants seems at once familiar and yet disjointed from our time. The film is truly self-aware, treating the audience to a play of sorts, complete with single shots, 360-degree views, and extreme closeups, which create almost a dollhouse feel to the early scenes with an overall effect that reminds one of Amelie. Such rich storytelling never offends with gratuitous violence, nudity, or even cuss words: its PG-13 rating is only due to the mature nature of the story. Even the music by Alexandre Desplat (The King's Speech) seems perfectly suited to the tale, wrapping the listener in big orchestral pieces which come off as humorous compliments to the melancholia and deadpan of Anderson's world. But it's also the writer and producer Anderson who is on display, creating a brilliant script which seemingly only he could translate into such an effective work of art. His portrayal of marriage, belonging, and even self-identity never become preachy or tiresome, rather his hands-off approach allows the characters to breathe, thus gaining affection from the audience; so that when the boom hits (as it does in most Anderson films), the emotional power is felt that much more.
In a Summer season filled with slow motion explosions marching to rock music, half-naked women, and cheesy cliched dialogue, Moonrise Kingdom proves you can still make a unique product, and that great stories still exist to be told, even if some in society might label them as quirky and unpredictable. Much like Sam and Suzy, Moonrise deserves a deeper exploration, one that will reward the moviegoer with a truly unique experience. The film should do well at February's Oscars, provided that judges even remember to nominate it. Let's hope they do.
Moonrise Kingdom is rated PG-13 for mild sexual and adult situations.
Please Leave A Comment-