Moonrise Kingdom

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.



61 thoughts on “Moonrise Kingdom

    • There’s no doubt that a lot of that Fantastic Mr Fox feel was here, too.

      Rushmore is still my fave, easily. But this was definitely a fun addition to is filmography… It has room to grow in my estimation, too.

  1. Good review Fogs. One of my favorites of the year because Anderson comes back doing what he does best: making cute, innocent tales that are a bit quirky, but still have heart to them. I’m surprised that this is getting so much Oscar-buzz as of late because I thought it was really good, but never a flick that could have been nominated for an Oscar like I’m starting to hear.

    • It’s garnering some Oscar buzz? Cool. I’d be happy for everyone involved… I’m with you though, Dan, I don’t know that I could see it winning or anything.

      Nice take on Anderson, Dan, that totally IS what he does best, and its definitely on display here. 🙂

  2. For some reason I thought you’d covered this already Fogs. Anyway, glad to see you finally get to it and it’s good hear you enjoyed. I liked it a lot and so far, it’s in my top ten of the year. Not Anderson’s best but still damn good.

    • Probably because I hit such a high percentage of flicks when they’re actually IN theaters… I’m sure you just thought I would have. 😉

      Damn limited release schedule really messed with me though. By the time it came around, I couldn’t get to it cause I had my hands full with movies that were in wide release NEW. So…

      It’s got a chance at my top ten too. There’s some things I was a little let down by (mainly Bill Murray’s lessened, forgettable role) but I definitely dug it. 🙂

      • Yeah, Murray and McDormand were as reliable as ever but I agree; they weren’t required to do very much but mope around. Norton was the real highlight for me but the two kids can’t be ruled out either.

      • Yeah, they were great. I actually thought Jason Schwartzman was the big show stealer here, but he was given the funniest part, so… its not that fair to any of the others, I suppose. Oh and Balaban was cracking me up, too. Everytime they cut to him, I was cracking up. 😀

  3. Thanks for the review, Fogs. A- seems a little generous to me. Overall, I’m conflicted about this one. At the same time I liked it and didn’t like it. I dunno….

    • Well, you know me. LOL. I’m easy. 😀

      It was really good, man. I mean, nothing to give plusses over or anything, I definitely did include the “minus” intentionally… but this is a really enjoyable, unique kind of flick, Brik.

      I can understand if you weren’t a big fan, but I think most people will like it.

    • Rushmore’s my favorite, too.

      I dont know that this one blew me away out of the gate, per se, but its definitely a winner. I’ll see where it winds up settling in in my personal ranking of Anderson movies… in time.

  4. Cool! Glad you were able to catch up with this one, Fogs. I was surprised with just how much I enjoyed this film — probably my favorite from Wes Anderson, actually. There’s a decent chance this will make my top ten as well.

    • Yeah, I’m still a HUGE fan of “Rushmore”, still one of my favorite movies from any director… let alone just Anderson. So… this didnt exactly rise to that level for me, but its still undeniably really good.

      I have to mull it over some, and if anything I’ll wind up liking it more after I have some time to let it grow on me. A lot of these really oddball films need some time to settle in, you know?

  5. I call it Magical Realism. Through the kids eyes the adults are able to experience that which seems to be missing in their lives. Young love and innocence. The adults are a strange bunch after all. The Bishops live in a lighthouse, Ward lives in a tent and dresses full time in a boy scout uniform. Capt. Sharp may be short a few nuts and bolts but he’s ready to adopt Sam and become the grown-up he’s meant to be. And the one adult truly in charge of Sam’s fate is known only as “Social Services”! Nothing amiss with these people, is there?
    Reminds me of Nabokovs’ “Lolita”(not the sex you deviant) where at some point in their lives the adults development arrested and they are in search for that which will make them whole. The island may be the metaphor for this condition and the need to finally get to the mainland.
    All in all, very thought provoking. Glad you finally saw it I know how pissed you were you missed it.

    • What’re you calling ME the deviant for, LOL. You’re the one bringing up “Lolita”!

      Anyways, you’re right about the contrast between the adults and the children, though outside of Sharp, I dont know how much growth we see in any of them. I definitely picked up on the contrast between adult relationships and the youthful vision of love, though that’s low hanging fruit. There’s probably more to read into it, but it didnt jump out at me… and I think when something is really genius it speaks on both levels at once, you know? You see it as the piece of entertainment on the surface level, but you also get the themes its trying to express. That’s not a criticism of “Kingdom”, I mean, SO FEW movies can actually do that. But it did temper my initial enthusiasm so I wasn’t giving it a higher A range grade…

      Yeah, I was pissed. Distributors piss me off sometimes. “Silver Linings Playbook” is the latest one irking me right now. %#&$ers. LOL

  6. Nice review, Fogs. Moonrise Kingdom is still my favorite movie of the year, and it will take a lot to knock it off that perch. I’m an Anderson fan but didn’t have huge expectations for this movie, so it was a real surprise for me.

    • Wow. Ok, ok. I take it I from the responses to this that I may, if anything, be coming in a bit low here… That cool though. Alright, alright. 😀

      I think I was just the opposite Dan. Maybe my expectations were too high… thus I wound up a little disappointed. Not that I gave it a bad grade or anything, but… you know what I’m saying.

      • I think you bring up a good point that expectations play such a huge role. For some reason, I wasn’t that excited after seeing the previews. It felt very familiar and a lot like Anderson’s other movies. That soured me a bit going in, which it even more surprising to love it that much. I shouldn’t have been surprised given how much I love Rushmore and some other Anderson movies, but it still wasn’t expected.

  7. I don’t think that this is really about anything more than relationships; there’s no central metaphor here outside of the difficulties and finite life span of romance. There’s no greater meaning than that, and for me that’s fine because the film explores it across every frame. Moonrise Kingdom‘s characters have nearly all been damaged by a fractured love of one sort or another– in the obvious case, it’s Suzy’s parents, two people who can scarcely communicate with one another even with the aid of a bullhorn. Tangential to their broken marriage is Sharp, the man Laura is having an affair with but who she ultimately rejected for Walt (and by consequence Sharp may be the person most hurt by the power of romantic love in the entire film).

    Getting more specific, Moonrise Kingdom is about different stages of romantic love. By Anderson’s account, the adults are the people who have it all wrong; when Sam and Suzy dance half-naked on the beach to “Le Temps de L’Amour”, that’s as good as it gets. They’re inexperienced and naive but what they have together is pure and uncomplicated courtesy of their decided lack of years compared to their parents and authority figures. In the eyes of Moonrise Kingdom, love is sweet and gentle, but it’s just as capable of being cold and merciless.

    And I think you can see that most in the multiple interpretations the ending lends itself to. Sharp adopts Sam, sparing him from the orphanage and preserving his relationship with Suzy, and there’s something good to that; on the other hand, Suzy’s final moment with Sam is very, very loaded. At any other time in the film, Suzy would have leaped out of that window and follow Sam anywhere. This time, she doesn’t. Maybe you can chalk that up to circumstances– Sam’s about to hop in the squad car with Sharp– but there’s a definite sense that their love has already started to grow up, which means the introduction of the sort of complications which have torn apart the other romantic liaisons of their home.

    Honestly, for me, this ranks among Anderson’s best. I think his aesthetic and his sensibility fits into a children’s story mold perfectly, which is why I loved Fantastic Mr. Fox so much. This isn’t quite the same as that film, but it’s a fairy tale, and the whimsy and wonder and color and adventure inherent to its structure and plot feels very well-served by his artistry. By extension, Moonrise easily stands out as one of the year’s best films for me, too– maybe even the best, though Holy Motors and Beasts of the Southern Wilds and Looper and probably a few movies I haven’t seen yet (The Hobbit, Django Unchained) all give it stiff competition.

    • I picked up on all of that through the first two paragraphs… but I’m not sure I saw what you saw there in the end. We’ll see on rewatch. I didn’t get that “Loaded Moment” feeling, really… but I can see what you’re reading there.

      “Ranks Among his best” is fair. I still think Fox, Rushmore and Tenenbaums all still rank ahead of it (personally), but that could change. Those other three have all had the benefit of multiple viewings….

      Next week I play catch up with “Beasts of the Southern Wild”… “Holy Motors” might be one of those films that eludes me during the year of its release, though. 😦 Been hearing nothing but incredible things though.

  8. Glad you liked the movie. I loved Norton and Willis in it, but overall found it to be very average. Plus Anderson’s insistance on killing animals in his movies is one of the reasons I’m never going to enjoy his films.

    • Yeah, LOL. He does pretty much shoot a puppy dead, huh.

      I cant help you there, but I certainly wouldnt call it average…. I think Anderson’s direction and style alone elevate it above most movies… Wish you could enjoy them more, Sati. 😦

  9. Thankfully I was able to see this at one of the locally-owned theater that is usually more of a “second run” sort of place. I fully agree that Anderson’s particular brand of film is fully on display here, and as others have said he is doing with this what he does best.

    Though the theater was far from packed, there were a fair amount of people in attendance and I was surprised at how many of them stayed until the credits were over. there was a group of elderly couples a few rows away from me that are the source of something that sticks with me even now. As the house lights came up one of the ladies exclaimed enthusiastically to the rest of her group “what a little gem that was!” to which they all agreed, also with some enthusiasm. I found myself smiling at that and nodding, also in agreement to no one in particular.

    • Thats cool you got to see this in theatres Dak. I did have the chance – honestly – but I couldnt work it in.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it (and the audience you saw it with did too, LOL) What a little gem is a good tag line for it. 🙂

  10. Incredibly charming but not exactly profound, I agree. From cinematic angle I loved how it was shot and how the characters were handled, but beyond that there’s very little to write home about. That being said I still loved watching this movie…

  11. I’m looking forward to watching this one when I get the chance, like you I didn’t manage to fit it in when it was in theaters, but I’ve been wanting it to see it for a while now.
    Also I still haven’t seen Fantastic Mr Fox, from what has been said in these comments I’m getting the feeling that I missed out on something pretty great there!

  12. Glad you enjoyed this Fogs. This was my fave Wes Anderson movie, that is until I saw Fantastic Mr Fox, I like that one slightly better but still this one is delightful!

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