With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I’ll be circling around to a handful of reviews over the next month or so that I didn’t have a chance to review when they hit the theatre initially. I’d include this in the “Under the Radar” series, but… with stars like Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, etc., plus a heavy national advertising campaign in spite of a slow national roll out, “Moonrise Kingdom” isn’t under the radar at all.
Still, I couldn’t wait for it to hit cable. This was one of my most anticipated movies for the year, I had to see if it was a Top Ten candidate.
The answer? It just might be.
Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) are two 12 year olds who fall in love.
Each of them come from difficult circumstances and carry their share of emotional baggage. Sam is an orphan living in foster care, while Suzy’s family seems a bit neglectful. Both act out in violent ways occasionally, and have begun to concern the adults in their lives. After a period of correspondence, they decide to run away together… in spite of the fact that they live on an island.
Once Sam’s absence is noted, an island-wide manhunt ensues. Scout Master Randy Ward (Ed Norton) contacts the local police captain, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and they begin to scour the area. Scout Master Randy Ward mobilizes his Khaki Scout troop, and Captain Sharp canvasses the locals. It’s then that Suzy is found missing, and her parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) join in the search.
Sam and Suzy, meanwhile, hike the island, talk about their lives, and read to each other. When the time comes to confront the other scouts in Sam’s troop, they defend themselves (rather violently ). They discover an inlet and dance in their skivvies, living the kind of care free, naive existence that only two run away twelve-year olds can.
The heat gets turned up on them however, when Social Services gets called (as represented by Tilda Swinton in a positively Terry Gilliam-esque part). The pursuit of Sam and Suzy then takes on an entirely new level of consequences.
Being a film by Wes Anderson, you know that “Moonrise Kingdom” is going to be filled with oddities and idiosyncrasies. Anderson marches to his own drummer, and indeed, his unmistakable brand of writing and directing are on display here. There’s an occasional shot that’s oddly framed, or moment filmed from afar. Musically, he uses Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga” more than once and Françoise Hardy’s “Le Temps de l’Amour” at a key point. But most of all, it’s the strange characters in the milieu that make Anderson’s films so inimitable. From Bob Balaban’s narrator/weatherman/historian to Ed Norton as the worst Scout leader ever to Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben, in a hysterical turn as the what must be the world’s oldest boy scout… you just don’t get characters this anywhere else. And while I was a little let down by the super droll characters given to Murray, McDormand and Willis, the rest of the players adequately pick up the slack.
It’s a charming film. Those who appreciate Anderson’s works will love it, as it certainly showcases his signature style. Aside from romanticizing the idealistic puppy-love period of life, I didn’t find too much “meaning” in it, if you will, on my initial viewing. Of course, that sort of thing can change with time. What I did find was an entertaining, quirky comedy, delivered in Wes Anderson’s trademark fashion.