Synopsis: A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them. (Source)
Hold on to your butts, people — Moonrise Kingdom is the definitive Wes Anderson film, and I mean that in the best way possible. Everything that he’s ever made has undoubtedly been leading to this moment, and man is it gorgeous. I can say for a fact that if you haven’t already been impressed by the auteur’s work, you’re probably better staying away, but if you’re like me and have been constantly dumbfounded by the creativity of his singular storytelling, then by all means, there’s no way you can walk out of this film without a giant grin of utter and complete satisfaction. Everything that we’ve come to love about Anderson’s work is flawlessly and perfectly utilized in their most potent forms. On top of that, it’s definitely his most thematically mature work and just may be the sweetest, most genuinely innocent film you’ll see all year.
Moonrise Kingdom’s story revolves around two different types of orphans, 12-year-olds Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Sam is an orphan in the literal sense of the word; as Khaki Scout, he’s the odd one out, ridiculed by his peers, and lives with foster parents who couldn’t care less about him. Suzy is an emotional orphan, living as the only girl with three younger brothers, whose parents Laura and Walt (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) have lost the magic in their relationship. To complicate things further, Suzy’s also a secret witness to her mother’s affair with the town sheriff, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). As two lonely kids who don’t fit into their surroundings, the pair instantly find a unique kinship with each other and stage a runaway with nothing to hold them back save for a plethora of very cute personal effects (a cat, cat food, record player, some books, and all of Sam’s scout gear). As their exodus into the woods of their tiny New England island town progresses, Sam’s former scoutmaster Randy (Edward Norton), Captain Sharp, and the town band together to find the lost young lovers, while the pair find everything that they’ve ever needed in each other.
Whereas a lot of criticism towards Anderson’s work is leveled at his penchant for highly stylized and unique aesthetics without much substance (something I really disagree with), Moonrise Kingdom is the director using all of his trademark techniques as a perfectly tuned weapon. From exquisitely framed and meticulously staged cinematography (Robert Yeoman’s yellow-tinged, super 16 photography is worth the ticket alone), to the dry and colorful character deliveries, and the perfectly placed classic rock, country, and French pop alongside Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful score, Anderson shows us a microcosm of his 1965 period setting to give us a richly profound portrait of young love and its ability to defy the odds and unite those around it. Since it’s told almost completely through the eyes of its two innocent and precocious protagonists, the story takes place in an almost surreal, idealistic world that is unfazed by its surrounding’s harsh qualities, while remaining in touch with it. There literally isn’t any detail that isn’t pitch-perfect and masterfully executed, and I couldn’t help but imagine the film as if it were Stanley Kubrick’s take on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts (there’s even a dog named Snoopy). By focusing on characters who are emotionally pure, Anderson is definitely taking his usual themes of familial dysfunction and turning over a new leaf, allowing his usual character types to take a back seat. In fact, had a few plot threads gone a bit differently, it wouldn’t be hard to see the characters from The Royal Tenenbaums as the inverse, upside-down versions of Moonrise’s characters.
In fitting fashion, you can’t talk about any Wes Anderson film without bringing up its ensemble of crazy, colorfully hilarious characters. As the two leads, newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are adorable and bring so much beauty to the fore through their genuine and innocent relationship. Coupled with wholly relatable character arcs, the two are instantly a new classic film couple who tell us so much about what we tend to lose when we grow older. Edward Norton and Bruce Willis are the most surprising, playing against their more serious typecasts to deliver two gentle and flawed versions of their stereotypes, which perfectly fit into the world Anderson’s created. They have some amazing scenes together and definitely steal different portions of the film. Anderson stalwarts Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman may not be used as much as you’d think, but the film benefits from it and they still have two very important parts; the fact that they’re kept to a minimum only makes them stand out that much more. Finally, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand are two great additions to the film and help push it that much further. Mcdormand brings a nice bit of heart to the film’s “adult” world, and it’s no secret that I’m a giant Tilda Swinton fan, who may be one of the film’s biggest highlights. As a character only known as “Social Services,” she’s a bit scary and interjects the film with the perfect amount of chaos at just the right moment (kudos to that amazing blue and red cape getup that she wears). With so many loud characters and a brilliant ensemble of actors, you might think it’d be too much to handle, but instead they help to vibrantly and hilariously crystalize the film’s themes (yes, the famous Wes Anderson one-liners are all intact).
In all honesty, Moonrise Kingdom is so dense and layered in virtually every aspect that it’s completely impossible to digest it all in just one viewing. It wouldn’t be hard to pick apart and analyze everything in the film over a long, drawn out review, but the most important thing for you to know is that the film, like the best type of art, is a true gift. There isn’t a cynical bone in its body, and its sweet, gentle message should open up even the hardest of cynics. Moonrise Kingdom is a perfect escape from everything that’s wrong with the world, and reminds us that in the end, all you need is love.
Crome Rating: 5/5