From the moment the needle hits the record, an unmitigated wave of nostalgia crashes onto the audience, and to those who are unfamiliar with Wes Anderson’s waters, they will drown in what is perhaps the most genuine romantic comedies that everyone has ever seen. That’s right for those who cannot even remotely understand Anderson’s work, they will find Moonrise Kingdom to be heartwarming, whimsy, and funny. In fact it may be one of his best works since Rushmore.
Moonrise Kingdom is perhaps the funniest, sweetest, most whimsical piece of work that Anderson has come up with in his entire career. Anderson’s resume is chalk full of witty dry humor that is sometimes hard to swallow. Sometimes they can be too smart for their own good. Sometimes they are just pretentious. But not Moonrise Kingdom.
The heart of Moonrise Kingdom centers on the two young lovers, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop (played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). Though they may seem inexperienced, they certainly have more maturity in the relationship department than their parents or guardians. The two run away, hoping to never see any of their superiors ever again. Surviving only on Shakusky’s wilderness wits, and the Bishop’s affinity for novels about wayward females, the two finally reach their destination – paradise or lack there of – and the kindred spirits intend to live out their days in each other’s arms.
All the while an inept Khaki scout master (Edward Norton), a sheriff (Bruce Willis) who is the only cop on the tiny Northeastern island, and the girl’s parent’s (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) who are emotional distant of each other, are looking for them.
It shouldn’t be too hard to know what you are getting yourself into since Anderson’s signature style is written all over this film. The subtle boarding and framing of characters, the perfectly bizarre & fitting music, and the hilarious segmented narration from Bob Baladan. All of it services a greater purpose, and its because of that style that the film works so well.
The film’s brilliance is in its simplicity. It’s a whimsical story that sings and never misses a beat. The kids know that they want to run away, but they have nowhere to run to, it is an island after all. But it is that story of runaway lovers that fuel this story.
Not once do these two actors over act or try to be funny. Their chemistry just works and it is because of that chemistry that they outshine their adult counterparts. As good as the adults are – and everyone older than 12 in this movie play their parts well- they take a back seat and never attempt to ask to sit in the front. Although, if I had to identify someone that shines in the movie, I would tell you that it would be Norton and Willis. The two are the scene-stealers of the film.
Sure some of the jokes may come across as pretentious, but they never intend to offend the viewer. Anderson’s films bring out the most genuine of emotions. The characters in the film have some sort of goal, and they are not driven by some monetary thing, instead they are driven by passion or doing the right thing.
There is no other time period that this film could have been set in. There is a sense of wayward innocence that existed in the 1960s, something that doesn’t exist in this cynical generation that’s full of terror, child molesters, and very bad reality TV. We need Moonrise Kingdom. It’s the kind of movie that speaks to everyone who has experienced this form of love or want to live vicariously through two 12-year olds who want to run away just to be together.