Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The Plot: Sam (Jared Gilman), a twelve-year-old khaki scout, runs off with a young girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward). Sam is an orphan and hates the scouts, while Suzy has an unsatisfying home life. A bunch of incompetent adults, including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, and Tilda Swinton, try to track the two lovebirds down.
Before I say anything else, I should point out that this movie is directed by Wes Anderson, whose style is most deserving of the adjective “quirky.” His movies, like The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, have a very strange, pseudo-artificial feel in terms of both writing and cinematography. This style is not for everyone; even I didn’t care for The Life Aquatic, as it felt way too silly without any substance.
But I think that Moonrise Kingdom, despite being one of his odder movies, is accessible. The main reason for that is the intent: Anderson wants to capture what it feels like to be young and in love. The world in Moonrise Kingdom feels separate from our own (largely due to a beautiful color palette), yet the feeling of being young, misunderstood, and out of place is relatable. Sam and Suzy are imperfect, but their honest feelings and emotions are engaging and make the characters sympathetic. All of the characters, even the incompetent adults, are interesting. The acting is superb, as per most of Anderson’s films.
But while I could talk about the good acting, the funny script, and interesting characters, that doesn’t really add up to the film’s best aspect: its heart. Yes, that’s cheesy, but Moonrise Kingdom is dedicated to creating a world where its characters–two oddballs trying to make sense of themselves–are respected by the audience. The colors are lush and enticing; the camera pans through the scenery; the story largely unfolds through Sam and Suzy’s eyes. The effect of all this is something very honest, and the lack of cynicism here is refreshing when you consider how ironic and cynical “quirky” movies can be.
There are also some nice, slightly more subtle directorial choices that enhance the overal mood of the film. I liked the use of trucking the camera (or physically moving it on the horizontal access) around Suzy’s house. Everyone is constantly in a different room, her parents separated by walls in the shot, and her often left all alone. Just in the opening sequence, with almost no dialogue, we start to understand Suzy’s sense of isolation.
Moreover, the phone call scenes divide the shot in half, showing the separation between, say, Bruce Willis’s well-meaning police officer and Tilda Swinton’s cold-hearted role as a Social Service worker. A lot of this movie is about gaps, or separation, and Anderson does what most directors hope to do: add to the theme by making every aspect of the movie represent it. He emphasizes this by having Sam and Suzy’s scenes shot without gaps. It’s a nice technique that shows how close these two feel. It invokes in us how strong that feeling of being young and hopeful is.
There are a lot of nice, little things in Moonrise Kingdom similar to what I’ve mentioned that I noticed this time around. I know I’m a bit slow in getting to this movie, but it’s rather delightful. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Anderson’s works is the egalitarian nature in regard to characters. All of the characters are complex and engaging, regardless of gender, sex, race, etc., yet none of them feel separate from these things. His movies understand people so well that, if there were any troublesome aspects, I didn’t pick up on any. If you have yet to catch this movie, then I suggest grabbing it somewhere.
Here’s a fun scene to persuade you.