Review: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom


Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
94 min.
Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

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The trials and tribulations of young love are dipped into a vat of rainbow paint and carefully laid out before the audience in Wes Anderson’s hyper-stylized Moonrise Kingdom, a delightful little tale that may be too quirky for everyone.

Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are penpals. They met at a local performance of the Biblical story of Noah and through weeks of mailed correspondence have arranged to meet secretly in a lonely field before going off together to explore their relationship without the prying eyes of their parents, adoptive caregivers or society in general.

Anderson’s story takes place on a small island off the coast of New England where Sam’s scouting troop is preparing for the annual jamboree. Suzy’s diinterested lawyer parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) are more restrictive of their eldest child than they need to be. Being together becomes their only desire and after they flee into the wilderness, the island’s sheriff (Bruce Willis) goes in search of the children at the behest of Sam’s worried scout master (Edward Norton).

A colorful array of characters typically season Anderson’s confections and many of his mainstays are back again. Every performance, rooted in a kind of altered reality, excels in its quirky irreverance. Although the briefest part in the show, Tilda Swinton’s uptight Social Services is the most interesting of the adult cast. Yet, as entertaining as Willis, Murray, McDormand, Norton, Swinton and the others are, the film rightfully belongs to Hayward and Gilman.

In debut performances each, Gilman and Hayward display a complex array of adult-like personalities fused with their childish bodies. Both possess a keen sense of presence and it will be interesting to see what the future holds, but Hayward more so than Gilman seems the one more likely for a broad range of successes. These may be the archetypal know-it-all youths that infuriate many of us when evaluating young actors, but with Anderson’s over-the-top sensibilities, you have to give the actors themselves a bit of leeway.

My first introduction to Anderson was his critically acclaimed drama Rushmore back in 1998. Having not seen it since my early days as a film critic, I find myself wondering if I gave it short shrift. Largely unimpressed by the film, most of its plot has vacated my memory, yet it forms the basis of my disinterest in not watching Anderson’s other films. After Fantastic Mr. Fox, I began to soften on my opinion of Anderson and with Moonrise Kingdom I’ve been fully won over.

Kingdom is as vibrantly stylized as any film he’s ever done, but its bizarre qualities feel brazen by comparison. He’s the kind of filmmaker who doesn’t care what others are doing and insists on making obscure, yet observant films. Moonrise Kingdom asks the audience to decide whether children of a certain age are capable of deciding what love is. Their lack of experience makes their decisions seem unjustified, yet their chemistry sparks the idea that our perceptions of when love can be appropriately understood may be rooted in a societal belief that inexperience leads to misunderstanding.

It’s frequently been said that children have a keen sense of perspective when it comes to understanding the future. They aren’t burdened by years of reinforced stereotypes and are able to look past the learned behavior that causes so much conflict among the adult population. What Anderson has done is find a way to challenge the notion that kids are incapable of understanding supposedly complex ideas and should be given some leeway in their execution of such beliefs.

Anderon’s film isn’t going to appeal to many. Moonrise Kingdom‘s obscure and challenging themes may be a bit too bold or confusing for a lot of people, but I must say that his jovial approach to our world is appealing. That, along with the handsome visuals and a stellar score by Alexandre Desplat should be enough to at least give it a shot.
Review Written
March 12, 2013

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