(2012, US, d. Wes Anderson)
Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s most universally relatable film. To the ardent fan, there’s nothing really different in tone, pacing, dialogue, and style between this and the rest of his films, but there is one element that changes it all up: children. And it makes a huge difference.
Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of 12 year old Sam Shakusky (played by Jared Gilman) – a summer camp runaway who attempts to make it on his own with the love of his life: Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). The only problem is that Shakusky lives on a very small, but geographically eclectic island called New Penzance.
I have to admit: I’m not a huge fan of Wes Anderson. For me, his films have never invited me in. They’ve always depicted a foreign world or a world through strangely tinted lenses but never allowed the audience to immerse themselves in it and to feel with the characters. That’s why Moonrise is Anderson’s best film: it invites the audience to see the world through the eyes of its protagonists.
Much like he does with his other films, Anderson pours a lot of psychological trouble onto these characters. But even though the way they talk and behave mirrors those of the director’s other notable characters, here it makes sense. Here’s it’s touching; even heartbreaking. The journey Shakusky makes with Suzy is filled with revelations and honest humor – a difficult balance to strike when a film is spearheaded by children.
As Shakusky continues on his romantic getaway, the rest of the islanders begin a large-scale search and rescue operation. These islanders (cops, parents, camp counselors, a random narrator, scouts, and everyone in between) are played by Anderson regulars. And again, when children are introduce in the mix and these actors are pushed to the background, they really shined like they never have in Anderson’s films. With the likes of Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, and Jason Shwartzman, Moonrise Kingdom is filled to the brim with star power (and star talent).
Let me be clear though. In no way is Moonrise Kingdom a departure from Wes Anderson’s films. In fact, it fits right into his anthology. I’ve always considered the mark of an auteur by his ability to convey a consistent, personal tone and in that regard, Anderson is among Hollywood’s best. Even though I don’t always like what he puts out.
For me, Moonrise Kingdom was just a film that worked. Funny, touching, and very quirky, the 96 minute film will be over before you know it.