Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two 12-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore - and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in every which way. Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff, Captain Sharp. Edward Norton is a Khaki Scout troop leader, Scout Master Ward. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the young girl's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban; and introduces Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, the boy and girl.
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Set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is the story of a pair of twelve-year-old star-crossed lovers named Sam and Suzy and their attempt to run away together, despite the interference of the adults on the island. Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan who has gone A.W.O.L. from the Khaki Scouts in order to be with the girl of his dreams, while Suzy (Kara Hayward) just wants to get away from her miserable life with her unhappy family and sees Sam as her way out. Sam's troop leader, Scout Master Randy Ward (Fight Club's Edward Norton) panics when the boy turns up missing and calls in the island police chief, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis from The Sixth Sense). When Suzy's lawyer parents, Walt and Laura Bishop (Ghostbusters' Bill Murray and Fargo's Frances McDormand), call in the report about their missing daughter, the adults put the story together and frantically try to track the kids down before they get lost or hurt. Fortunately for the kids, Sam is a first-rate Khaki Scout and is able to use his camping and tracking skills to stay one step ahead of their pursuers...at least until he and Suzy can get to their destination.
Moonrise Kingdom is obviously a Wes Anderson film. Anderson is as much of a cult figure as a filmmaker, and his fans know what to expect from him. They will not be disappointed with Moonrise Kingdom. It's full of the oddball characters and unbelievable situations for which Anderson's films are known. Anderson tends to use a tight group of cast and crew, and several of his usual suspects are in Moonrise Kingdom. The familiar faces are part of the Anderson Formula, and part of why his films are so consistently brilliant.
Anderson wrote Moonrise Kingdom with Roman Coppola (who also collaborated with him on The Darjeeling Limited), and the script is wonderfully crafted. What drives the storyline of Moonrise Kingdom along is the cute little love affair between Sam and Suzy. The couple is on the run from everyone. Scout Master Randy and the Khaki Scouts want to get their lost scout back. Suzy's parents think their daughter has been abducted and want to save her. Captain Sharp, as the island police officer, has a responsibility to Social Services (played by Tilda Swinton from We Need to Talk About Kevin) to find the children. Sam and Suzy's love is so sweet and innocent that the audience can't help but become emotionally invested in their cause and root for them to get away, because getting caught would mean that they would be separated, and no one wants that.
Moonrise Kingdom is more than a simple coming-of-age tale about a pair of pre-teen lovers. Anderson seems to flip the character roles - the children talk like adults and the adults act like children, making Sam and Suzy the most reasonable characters in the film - and they are far from reasonable. The film is full of craziness, but that's where its charm lies - in its craziness. Moonrise Kingdom is funny, engaging, entertaining and seems destined to become another feather in Wes Anderson's cap.
For Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson uses his longtime cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, the man who has shot not only all of Anderson's films, but such comedies as Whip It, Dogma and Bridesmaids as well. Shot on 16mm film and blown up to 35mm, the finished film has a hip, retro look to it. The setups in Moonrise Kingdom are meticulously orchestrated to look like they are not planned. There are several shots that are long, drawn out takes where stuff just happens, on and off screen, with characters walking into the frame for little bits of dialogue and actions. For example, in one setup towards the beginning of the film, the camera follows Scout Master Randy as he wanders through the khaki scout camp, inspecting his kids' work and chores while scouts walk, trot and run around him on his way. In other scenes, a narrator (played by Bob Balaban, who is best known as Russell on "Seinfeld") speaks to the camera about history, nature and weather conditions on the island while history, nature and weather happens behind him. The long, well-rehearsed shots and the fact that the film was shot on 16mm film give the movie a faux-documentary look and feel that lends itself well to Anderson's quirky sense of storytelling.
Wes Anderson films have a brand of humor all their own, and Moonrise Kingdom fits the mold flawlessly. The dialogue is so deadpan and played so straight by the actors that by the time it reaches the viewer, the results are hilarious. In probably the most uncomfortable love scene ever filmed, Suzy and Sam are on a beach in their underclothes after swimming in a cove. The scene is incredibly awkward, with dialogue snippets like "you're poking me" and "they're going to grow." The poor kids are trying to make out, but really have no idea what they're doing, and the results are hysterical. In another scene Scout Master Randy has the remaining Khaki Scouts fan out and search for the fugitive couple, and the operation is so militaristic and the kids take it so seriously that one cannot help but be amused by the technical lingo and operational speak that is being used. Moonrise Kingdom is well written and perfectly cast, and the script and actors come together to make a smart and funny movie that will get laughs out of even the most stone-faced viewers.
May 25, 2012