Wes Anderson Takes You
To “Moonrise Kingdom”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Focus Features arranged a special showing of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” for children’s author Judy Blume. She invited me and fellow reviewer Ian Brockway to join her. “Why do they want me to see this film?” she fretted as we gathered in the Tropic’s Taylor Theater. After it was over, Judy said, “Oh, I get it. The movie was about children.”
And magically so.
The story takes place on a mythical New England island where two youngsters have disappeared, setting off a search led by the local police chief and a scout troop.
The two tweens – bespectacled Sam (Jared Gilman) who smokes a pipe and prim Suzy (Kara Heywood) who reads adventure books – had met the year before at a church play and became pen pals. Wise in ways found only in Wes Anderson films, the youngsters decide to elope, setting off across the island toward a secluded spot, a pretty cove they name Moonrise Kingdom.
Their disappearance raises an alarm.
With a bad storm approaching, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) organizes a search party. Led by a straight-arrow scoutmaster (Edward Norton), the local troop joins in, more like a bloodthirsty posse than a rescue team.
Being that Sam’s adopted, his folks decide they don’t want him back. Suzy’s lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) pause in their dysfunctional marriage to worry about their missing daughter. They consider her a “Very Troubled Child,” as evidenced by a book she has found.
In their escape attempt, the kids are assisted by larcenous Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) and are threatened by a follow-the-rules Social Services lady (Tilda Swinton) who wants to put Sam into “protective custody.” But the police chief sees it differently.
A couple of star-crossed love stories, storms, floods, lightning bolts from on high – you will be hooked like a fish in the gentle waters of “Moonrise Kingdom.”
The film is narrated (sort of) by a grizzled fisherman known as the Narrator (Bob Balaban), who shares island history, weather reports, and sightseeing tips.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is typical of Wes Anderson films (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Darjeeling Limited”) – peopled with odd characters and off-kilter situations. Set in 1965, it’s almost like a childhood memory. A faded dreamscape. An offbeat coming-of-age love story.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is currently enchanting audiences at the Tropic Cinema.
Some moviegoers complain that Wes Anderson’s films are “not realistic” and “precious.” Others see them as “mannered” and “utter uncompromising stylishness.” Fans describe them as “amazing,” “distinctive,” and “wondrous.”
“I want to try not to repeat myself,” says Anderson. “But then I seem to do it continuously in my films. It’s not something I make any effort to do. I just want to make films that are personal, but interesting to an audience. I feel I get criticized for style over substance.”
Written by Anderson and his frequent collaborator Roman Coppola, this film is both familiar and different. Their first period piece, but yet one where the characters transcend the ordinary. It’s a minor masterpiece.
Sam and Suzy longed for an adventure of their own. They got it. And you can share it, this trek into the fantastical world of Wes Anderson.