The biggest treat last the summer was Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It is a sweet, nostalgic story of a twelve-year-old couple who run away together, and the search party looking for them, on a small New England island in the 1960s. Among the a large cast of young actors are more seasoned and familiar faces that bring their support to letting the two tween leads shine. The final product becomes a beautiful film with a distinct style both visually and emotionally.
Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan Khaki Scout and Suzy (Kara Hayward) is the eldest child, misunderstood by her family. Their relationship is sweet and mildly innocent without any cliche mush. Sam is a gentleman, using his scouting skills to lead the way, catch dinner and keep a tidy campsite. Suzy brings a borrowed record player, a kitten and reads her stolen library books to Sam by the fire. Their day alone together must have easily been the best of their young lives and we share their joy as they claim that beach as their own.
However, a small group of adults and Khaki Scouts are pursuing them to no end. Suzy’s parents, Laura (Frances McDormand) and Walt (Bill Murray) are furious and worried, bringing their three sons in tow. Having already lost Sam, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) awkwardly leads his scouts in the search, with no real control. The remaining scouts don’t really care for Sam, and are prepared to take him by force. And as Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the town’s police officer, searches for Sam and Suzy, he becomes more and more invested in what will happen to Sam once he is found.
There are two themes in the film that really shined through for me that I didn’t connect fully on my initial viewing. First is how the simple theme from Noah’s Ark comes into play. At the wonderfully elaborate church’s production of Noah’s Ark, that the whole town seems to either be in or watching, Sam and Suzy first meet. Later in the film, a storm hits the island, bringing new dangers, challenges and wonderful images of a threatening flood. The olive branch extended in the end will warm your heart.
Second is the idea of an orchestra. The film starts with Suzy’s brothers listening to a record where each section of instruments is introduced and it helps illustrate their individual roles in the music. The same idea is present in the film, and each section of characters are introduced individually so we understand their different tones. While Suzy and Sam provide a beautiful melody, they are nothing without Suzy’s family, Captain Sharp and Scout Master Ward behind them and everything keeps to the beat of those Khaki Scouts, with Social Services (Tilda Swinton) and the narrator (Bob Balaban) having brief but important solos.
Visually, Moonrise Kingdom keeps to Wes Anderson’s usual style. We see most scenes from a very straightforward perspective and usually the focus of the screen is centered. Most scenes are very symmetrical. This makes scenes with Suzy and Sam in the woods stand out more, and feel more relaxed and free. It’s harder to find such rigid geometry in nature.
In the end, I believe Moonrise Kingdom will be remembered as that wonderful film we share with kids for generations to come. It only got one Oscar nomination, for best original screenplay, but it feels like it deserves so much more. However, with such young lead actors and such a dense field in their year, it just didn’t pick up as much merit as its competition.
“It’s been proven by history: all mankind makes mistakes.”
And now for a totally different point of view—
What a delight! Watching an utterly ridiculous story about two completely obnoxious pre-pubescent teens whose first act of “togetherness” is killing a dog…is just my idea of a truly uplifting and meaningful film. There is something seriously wrong with writer/director Wes Anderson, as this is the 3rd film of his that I have seen and intensely disliked…it is beyond comprehension that Hollywood (and many critics) keep fawning all over this creep. The one redeeming feature of the film was the excellent score by Alexandre Desplat and the fact that I did not waste 10 bucks seeing this clunker in a theater…Closet pedophiles may get a kick out of it, though.
Sorry, granted I am an animal nut; but that scene of the dead dog with arrow and blood as some sort of great bonding experience between the two kiddie lovers was offensive and just more than I am willing to take. A scene like that automatically wrecks a movie for me and makes me want to give an extra donation to PETA. Too bad, because it was a great cast in a really distasteful film…which I will NOT be sharing with any children.
Ken, I respect your opinion, Anderson’s films are not for everyone and the death of an animal can be an immediate turn off for many people. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe it was Sam who killed poor Snoopy, but an accident by one of the other scouts in all the confusion as Suzy was attacking Redford with lefty scissors. But who’s to say?
Alyson is right, Snoopy was killed by an arrow, shot by one of the Khaki Scouts, and it was clearly a mistake (though, admittedly, the intended target was probably Sam). And certainly Sam, who knew Snoopy, was upset.
The odd thing, though, is that the reaction you describe to his films in general is exactly how I felt about The Royal Tenenbaums (the only other one I’ve seen). But this one I adored. But I haven’t made any effort to catch up on the ones I’ve missed.
Sometimes, a writer/director sets the viewer off in some nebulous way. Unfortunately, that seems to be Anderson’s affect on me…ROYAL Ts left me cold; LIFE AQUATIC was just so crazy that it actually made me mad; RUSHMORE was OK but not something I care to see again…all of them had in common (including this one) just being one big crazy mess.
Besides that, the “dog scene” here really got me (obviously). But the most troubling thing for me was the sexual interplay between Sam & Suzy. I realize that it’s not quite the same as a pair of 6 year-olds but, for me, sexual activity between two 12 y.o. kids is pushing things a bit too far for my taste, and leaves me feeling quite uncomfortable, and I really am not remotely a prude. For those who would say that this represents some kind of new reality…I would say, along with the mom in BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE–It may be reality–so is diarrhea; but I don’t want to pay money to watch it. Anderson is one of those folks that I just don’t get, and after three tries, don’t want to watch any more mess in order to “get” him.
I’m the same way about Christopher Nolan. I loved Memento, but since then the ones I’ve seen have been slow and ponderous (not my favorite qualities in movies) with a few nice action set pieces, no wit, no connections to real life, and (except for Heath Ledger and Anne Hathaway) no memorable performances.
Clearly, the Nolan fans (of whom there are many) are seeing something that’s going right by me. I’m cool with that.
Good review Alsyon. Such a sweet, little film that shows Anderson can write and not be non-stop quirky all of the time. One of my favorites from last year.
Thanks, one of my favorites as well.
Man I love this movie! Admittedly I loved Django Unchained so I was happy when it won its Oscar, but Moonrise Kingdom was equally deserving to say the least. This is definitely one of the most original films I’ve seen in a long time. 🙂
Same here, I was glad that Moonrise Kingdom got at least a little recognition and happy to see Tarantino take that Oscar.
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