I just got back from seeing Moonrise Kingdom, and I just have to say up front…I think this film may go on my list of absolute favorite movies of all time. Of all of Wes Anderson movies, this goes down to me as his most hilarious and his most emotionally deep. But that’s not to put down at all his previous works, which are all hilariously funny and carry a strong emotional weight. I love Anderson’s films. He embodies everything that Tim Burton had at one time in his career. His style of filmmaking never overshadows its message. Everything from his stylized vision to his dry sense of humor never fails to hit me the right way. The Royal Tennenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are all terrific movies. But with Moonrise Kingdom, out of all his films, to me, this to me is his most special.
I may be a little biased here since this is a movie about Boy Scouts, or as they’re called here, Khaki Scouts. I grew up going through the entire scouting program, from Tiger Cubs at the age of 6 to Eagle Scout at the age of 17. That was 11 years of my life devoted to scouting and it was some of the best memories I have growing up through my childhood. So it was hilarious to watch Edward Norton as the overly dedicated Scoutmaster of his troop and some of the hard ass, over the top militaristic training he puts on these young scouts.
The story takes place in 1965 and centers on one of the Khaki scouts, Sam, an emotionally damaged kid whose foster parents had pretty much given up hope in him because of his weird nature. He escapes into the woods with a girl he’s fallen in love with named Suzy. But she’s damaged as well as she has sociopathic tendencies and is essentially ignored by her parents (played by Bill Murray and Francis McDormand) who are both lawyers in an empty marriage. So Sam and Suzy run off, using Sam’s wilderness survival skills as a Khaki scout to survive. It’s ultimately a doomed romance as Sam is a boy without parents and the threat of being sent to an orphanage, where because of his erratic behavior he may be facing electro-shock therapy. But it’s really a fight for these two to keep their innocence alive and their hope of escape from the lonely, depressing fate of the adults in their lives.
You would think after reading that description that this movie has a dark tone hanging over it, when in fact it’s surprisingly light. And I should probably mention again…this movie is hilarious! It does take a little bit of time to get into it and settle into the world of the film. But once you get into it, its charm will embrace you. There are all around great performances by everyone, including Bruce Willis who plays Captain Sharp, the towns police officer. Willis brings the humor and the sadness to Sharp, who is not only lonely, but struggling in an affair he’s having with Murray’s wife. Harvey Keitel also makes an appearance as the tough scouting commissioner, and Tilda Swinton brings some underlying menace as the social worker.
But really it’s all about the two kids, played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. In fact, all the kids in this film are terrific. Watching the relationship blossom between Suzy and Sam is really wonderful and innocent, as the two have been planning their escape for over a year by corresponding with letters. And finding out Sam’s escape from his tent, which is straight out The Shawshank Redemption is absolutely hilarious. It’s amazing to me how Wes Anderson can portray in all of his films such heavily damaged people in such a light comical way, and yet keeping it truthful all the same.
If you know Wes Anderson’s work, then I don’t have to explain the top quality of the stylistic production design. The inside of Suzy’s house is almost like looking into a dollhouse. The compositions of each shot are all masterfully done, and the score by Alexandre Desplat along with the songs by Benjamin Britten really breathe life into this film.
I don’t really have much more to say, and I don’t want to give away too much more. It’s a perfect, wonderful gem of a film that deserves your attention. It’s solid all the way through, and nothing is compromised in Wes Anderson’s vision. This film is truly a work of art, and if you have decide this weekend between this or Men In Black, I can tell right now, Moonrise Kingdom is guaranteed not to disappoint.