Most people have had a first love. A few of them are fortunate enough to discover that their first love is the only one they'll ever need. Moonrise Kingdom could potentially be the story of the beginning of one such love between a boy and a girl who are just reaching puberty. The boy is Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), who's on an outing with his scout troop in 1965 on a New England island. His plans, however, did not really involve bonding with his peers through scouting. In the middle of the night one night, Sam headed out on an expedition of his own. His plans were to rendezvous with Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), a girl he'd met during his troop's excursion the previous year. On discovering his disappearance and initially failing to locate him, Sam's scout master, Randy Ward (Edward Norton) contacts Chief Sharp (Bruce Willis) to report the incident.
The scouts stay on the trail, though, and eventually find the pair. Suzy's parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) take her home, which is called Summer's End, and tell her not to contact Sam anymore. However, complications arise following the reunions. First, they sneak away again. Then, word comes from the mainland that Mr. Billingsley (Larry Pine), who has been a foster father to the orphaned Sam, no longer wants Sam living there. That forces Chief Sharp to contact Social Services (Tilda Swinton), who comes to advise the Chief that Sam will be headed to an orphanage. The scouts, though, are a little more sympathetic this time, and take Sam and Suzy to Ben (Jason Schwartzman), a scout leader who's a cousin of one of the boys. He does things to be sympathetic to the situation as a storm threatens to batter the area.
Moonrise Kingdom has themes that are familiar to Wes Anderson's films. Outsiders are looking to connect, even if it's with just one person. Sam and Suzy are like that, but so are Walt, Laura, Randy, and Chief Sharp. Families are at odds as well, as Laura hasn't been faithful to Walt, and Sam is about to lose his foster family and leave the scouts. Yet, through the events of the film, they are reminded of the good times they've had together, and that not all of the good times are done. Anderson wrote this film with Roman Coppola, and is a smart and humorous look at love and attraction, and how couples might not have both. Sam and Suzy know that they want to be with one another, and in one of the film's best scenes, performs an unofficial marriage ceremony for them. Laura and Chief Sharp, on the other hand, discover that the clandestine meetings they've had don't have both love and attraction. Robert Yeoman, who has been behind the camera for most of Anderson's films, returns with his usual vivid type of shots. Anderson also offers an eclectic soundtrack, with music from Benjamin Britten, and Francoise Hardy, as well as some lovely original music from Alexandre Desplat.
The film is full of fine performances, including the lead performances from Haywood and Gilman, each of whom are making their screen debuts here. Gilman, as Sam, has grown tired of the scouting he has done, and has begun scouting associated with adolescence. The only one who encourages him to pursue Suzy is Suzy herself. Yet, the very scouting experience for which he expresses no interest is the means by which he gets the quiet time with Suzy that he wants. Hayward shines as Suzy, Sam's partner in loneliness. She lives with busy parents and three younger brothers who have their own interests. Her idea of camping, though, involves plenty of home comforts. She brings books, music, and her kitten, who is himself amusing.
Murray, who's been a fixture in Anderson films, has comic anger as Walt, who sees he's not as much in control in his family as he'd like. Schwartzman, another Anderson veteran, is fun as the idealistic Ben. Willis shows he can be a hero cop of a different sort as Chief Sharp. Norton is another solid performer as Randy, whose scouting life seems much more fulfilling to him than his teaching life. I also liked McDormand as a wife who makes some important decisions about her personal life, and Swinton is very bureaucratic as Social Services, who knows her options are limited regarding Sam. Harvey Keitel has a nice cameo as scout Commander Pierce, and Bob Balaban provides narration for this story.
Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson's best film since The Royal Tenenbaums. In typical Wes Anderson fashion, he has helped to create a story about broken families and broken hearts that doesn't resort to cliches. I doubt that any of these characters would want their lives to turn into a cliche, but they long for the good moments in routines that are often unrewarding. Sam and Suzy may have families, but they are, in a sense, all alone. They long for and work toward a time where their wishes can be realized. By making their feelings known, they invite anybody who cares about them to be a part of their growing friendship.
Thank you Christal (also her Epinions handle) for adding this film to the database for me.
Read all 2 Reviews
Write a Review
Movie Mood: None of the Above
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing