Movies: "Moonrise Kingdom" | Arts & Culture
With his quirky themes of young people in troubled family situations, his recurring cast members (Bill Murray, the Wilson brothers) and his highly-structured, symmetrical camera work, Wes Anderson is the textbook model of an auteur, a film director with a unique approach to the art. He’s made some delightful movies (“Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”) and some duds (“The Darjeeling Limited,” “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”), but they are all his and his entirely.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is one of his very best.
Set on an island off the New England coast (it was filmed in Rhode Island), it tells the story of two 12-year olds who run away together just as a powerful storm bears down on them.
Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are Sam and Suzy, both of whom have been labeled as “troubled.” Suzy even found a pamphlet at home titled “Coping with a Troubled Child” while the orphaned Sam has been virtually shunned by his fellow Khaki Scouts at a summer camp run military-style by Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton).
As the two youngsters make their way across the island, guided by Sam’s proficient scouting skills, a host of adults set off in pursuit. These include Suzy’s estranged parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the lovelorn local police chief (Bruce Willis), a Patton-like Scout commander (Harvey Keitel) and a chilling Salvation Army- clad woman identified only as Social Services (Tilda Swinton). In contrast to the earnest love of the two runaways, all of the grownups are seen as sad, lonely or frigid figures.
There are also some amusing cameos here, including the great Bob Balaban as an LL Bean-clad narrator and Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”) as a conniving older scout who “marries” the two young lovers.
As Sam and Suzy, Gilman and Hayward both deliver touching performances. Norton is good as the scoutmaster who loses total control of his camp, Murray and McDormand are terrific as always in their roles, but the best surprise is a low-key Bruce Willis as the cop trying his best to find the missing kids and get his own life in order. Keitel and Swinton are great actors, but are largely wasted here.
With its touching tale of first love, its scenic beauty (shot by cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, who worked on five of Anderson’s films), and a frequently funny script by Anderson and Roman Coppola (son of Francis Ford Coppola and a cousin of Jason Schwartzman’s), “Moonrise Kingdom” is refreshing relief from a summer of blockbusters.
I should also mention its lively music, much of it composed by Alexandre Desplat (the last two “Harry Potter” films among many others), with large doses of Benjamin Britten and Hank Williams, plus the creatively conceived children’s books, complete with original cover art, that Suzy lugs along with her on their escape and reads aloud to Sam at night. It all rings true, to the story and to Wes Anderson’s imaginative style.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is rated PG-13 for some language and a scene of pre-teen sexuality.
I loved it, and give it an A.