Whenever there is an opportunity to talk about a Wes Anderson movie, you can rest assured that I will be there. With this week’s release of his latest film Moonrise Kingdom (2012) on DVD and Blu-ray, I can use this opportunity to compliment one of the most visionary and creative filmmakers working today. His films take us to other places that often resemble our own lives, but are uniquely different and far more colorful.
In 1965, Sam (Jared Gilman) is a 12-year-old runaway from his “Khaki Scout” troop’s campsite on the small New England island of New Penzance. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) enlists the help of the local police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), who proceeds to knock door to door searching for the young boy.
Soon Sharp knocks on the door of Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray & Frances McDormand). After Sharp leaves their home, Laura sneaks out the back and meets Sharp, with whom she is having an affair. All of this is watched through the binoculars of Laura and Walt’s 12-year-old daughter, Suzy (Kara Hayward).
Sam and Suzy met last summer on the island and have been pen pals ever since. After a year of writing to each other about their troubled lives, they have grown a close bond and have now planned to run away together. Sam is an orphan who constantly jumps between foster homes and Suzy is regarded as a “different” child by her parents, three younger brothers, teachers and friends. The only place they have ever felt comfortable is with each other.
There are so few romance movies with 12-year-olds for main characters. In many ways it’s a shame because these kids seem to understand so much more than the adults that inhabit the same island. Even with the issues that Sam and Suzy face in their personal lives, they are still by far the most mature people they know. Guided by the common bond of being labeled an outsider, and their passion for each other, Sam and Suzy are destined to be together. Whenever they are involved in a conversation with the plethora of other characters in this film, it is always these two that come out as the voice of reason. All the adults are far too concerned with what is “right” or “logical” to ever see the needs that these two amazingly profound and enlightened children have. Sam and Suzy beat all the odds to be together, and much in the same way as Harold And Maude (1971), they have obtained the status of being one of the great romantic couples in film history.
Wes Anderson has invented another world on this island, and because of his enormous attention to detail, he has taken this “fantasy” island and made it a part of our reality. It is like a place right out of a book; only because of the way Anderson (along with co-writer Roman Coppola) shows every detail of their world, New Penzance Island feels real and accessible in an uncanny way. I would love to go exploring across the old trails and forests, finally making my way to “Moonrise Kingdom” for a late afternoon swim. I just need a record player, and some Hank Williams to help set the mood.
Many of Wes Anderson’s movies are famous or popular because of his ability to have an abundance of great characters that top tier actors often seem to flock toward. His casts are always full of the biggest names in Hollywood, but for Moonrise Kingdom he has made a film where the two leading characters are completely unknown because of their age. (Although I am sure we will be seeing much more of them in the future.) These two “tweeners” carry the film on their shoulders, yet Anderson has also filled the rest of the roles with some of the most interesting and entertaining supporting characters of all of his films. Particularly Jason Schwartzman, who though he is only on the screen for less than ten minutes, fills each one of these minutes with non-stop laughs. The delivery of his lines is pure comic perfection, and he adds so much to this movie, even if it’s only for a brief time.
Moonrise Kingdom proves that even today a great script, wonderful characters with equally wonderful performances, and a director with a desire and ability to be a great storyteller are still enough to entertain audiences. It is a wonderfully touching film that can inspire all the “different” people in the world to be themselves and swim against the flow called normal.Back to Home for More Reviews