A tale of childhood whimsy and the lengths we’ll go to for the one we love. Moonrise Kingdom is very much a signature Wes Anderson film. Check the review out after the jump. Set in 1960s New England, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two very “unique” children and their desire to be together and to be free. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is the eldest child (and only daughter) of the rather eccentric Laura (Frances McDormand) and Walt Bishop (Bill Murray). Suzy is a temperamental girl who loves viewing the world through her binoculars, so that everything (and everyone) seems close – she calls this her magic power. Suzy meets Sam (Jared Gilman), a young orphan with his own behavioural issues, who is an extremely competent member of the Khaki Scouts, at a church play. The two are drawn to each other, and at the end of the day Suzy slips Sam her address. The two become pen-pals and after an extended period of letter writing they decide to run away together.
When it is discovered they have run away, a mad-cap hunt around the island begins. The hunt is led by the lone policeman (played by Bruce Willis), the extremely earnest Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Suzy’s parents, and group of misfit Khaki scouts. It is not only the missing children which is of concern, but also an approaching storm which is set to cause large-scale damage in the area. The pair must be found as soon as possible – any and all methods of finding them are acceptable and encouraged.
Moonrise Kingdom is everything that we’ve come to expect from Wes Anderson – quirky characters, a sepia colour-pallette, fun uplifting music, and utter disconnect from reality. The characters are so bizarre and the retro settings feel so carefully constructed (like they are handmade sets or models), that you never feel like anything is real. For some this will be everything that they are looking for in a film – a delightful tale that takes them away from reality and provides an escape to a world of fantasy. However, I found this to be disconnecting, and found it somewhat hard to care about the characters. Sure it was fun, but there was so little beyond the hipster exterior, that it often fell flat for me.
The relationship between the two children is really quite sweet and I did believe that they loved each other. Their complete and utter trust in each other on their completely crazy adventure was both naïve and touching. It’s a shame we didn’t get to know some of the adult characters a bit more – there were hints of interesting stories and personalities that would have been fun to explore, but these were mostly ignored in favour of the children’s story-line. Bill Murray really phoned in for this role – in the small amount of screen-time he has it feels like he is simply playing himself (although he is a pretty cool guy…). I enjoyed Bruce Willis as the small-town cop with the unusually big heart; while Tilda Swinton is hilarious in her brief role as the extremely up-tight and by-the-books Social Services.The wonderful soundtrack was the highlight in this film for me – it embodied the child-like whimsy and silliness of the film, and perfectly accentuates the mood and atmosphere.
Overall, Moonrise Kingdom is a cute and quirky tale of childhood love and escaping reality. While the film is certainly charming, it lacks the depth or anchor in reality which is needed to make it a great film. Fans of Wes Anderson will find a lot to love here – he has delivered another film true to his directorial style and writing ethos.
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer(s): Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand
Runtime: 94 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: August 30 2012; USA: May 25 2012 (limited)