Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Stars: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking, 94 Minutes, Drama/Comedy

Compare to: Rushmore (1998), The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Wes Anderson has done it again. He’s made a film that’s indie appeal is the movie rather than being apart of the movie, utilizing a unique brand of humor others just attempt. He’s also made a movie that, if you’re not fan who just can’t get enough, will annoy you to the bitter end how bland everyone is. A gift and a curse. Thankfully, this movie is more on the “gift” side.

Anderson’s love of character’s, settings, and tone that are so…mild seems to be hit or miss with audiences while favoured by critics in just about everything he releases. I don’t blame anyone for not caring for this style, but to write it off as “weird” and simply forget about it would be a mistake.

On an island off of New England, New Penzance, a “Khaki Scout” has just disappeared. Sam Shakusky, a twelve-year old outcast has just run away from his boy scout troop and doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. He’s gone to meet up with his pen pal of the past few months, another twelve-year old by the name of Suzy Bishop. The plan is to elope and live off of the fat of the land. The problem is that Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Suzy’s parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) are all looking for them, as well as the highly resourceful (and violent) khaki scouts. All this occurs as a hurricane is set to hit the island in three days.

From the music to the dialogue, I feel like I need to have a more expansive vocabulary just to properly describe this one. Certain things in Anderson’s films are his trademarks that aren’t funny in description, but only in viewing it for yourself can you find humor in it.Characters staring at each other for long periods of time without saying anything come off as comical as you’ll have just enough time to study their faces and really grasp how truly odd they look. The setting of the island is perfect, giving that feel of being a kid and thinking that running into the woods would allow to disappear off the face of the earth as far as everyone else is concerned…while in reality not being that far away at all.

The cast is great also, with Edward Norton playing the role of Scout Master Ward, a man who takes his job either too seriously, or as seriously as the head of a boy scout troop is supposed to take his job, and he seems quite proud of the way things are run. His introduction involves a quick check-up on his troop, a small army it seems, while they’re all performing various tasks that would make a parent squirm, such as building a quality tree house a good thirty feet off of the ground on a tree no bigger than a foot in diameter. Although it seems Norton didn’t know it was being made at all, it’s a miniature house. They receive a warning for the altitude being too high before Norton moves on with the rest of his day.

Murray and McDormand play Suzy’s parents, which are probably the saddest part of the film, giving little Suzy even more reason to run off with Sam. She’s not allowed to be with crush, while her parents are miserable with each other and feel forced to stay together. Still, even with the drama that ensues between the couple and McDormand’s affair with Willis’ character, nothing ever feels too serious or bogged down by overweight drama. Serious issues are stil given their due respect though, with not a hint of cynicism to any part of the plot; a rarity these days.

The twelve year old Romeo and Juliet (played by Gilman and Hayward) make everything worth watching though. Their romance is started so quickly and their down-to-business attitude in their first encounter especially, make you wander if they’re even enjoying their time together or just there to make some sort of exchange. Yet they are in a way, as Sam cooks for Suzy, and uses his boy scout survival skills to help navigate and “survive” in the rough terrain, and Suzy reads to Sam. He also criticizes her for stealing the books from the library. “Why did you steal them?” he asks. “You’re not poor.” The scene in which the remaining Khaki Scouts catch up with, and attempt to bring young Sam in is the funniest (and most violent) in the film. It’s worth the watch alone.

Though with any filmmakers who have their signature style of storytelling, the real focal point are the visuals and upbeat, eccentric tone that Anderson’s films always have. No matter how strange and even damnable the situation appears, everything still feels humorous. We feel the impact of the characters’ choices and words while at no point ever feeling too stressed, as though there’s any scene we want to jump over, just to get back to the “funny parts.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get this review out sooner, as limited release means exactly what it is, and some films are harder to find than others, but I still wanted to review this for the sake of getting it out there. It’s already done well on it’s budget having been out since May, but I think there’s still more for it to make, more people to enjoy it. If you’re not a fan of Anderson’s other films, you may not enjoy this one, but I just don’t see how you couldn’t. I don’t know if it’s one of the best of the year, I just know it’s a well made movie that doesn’t need to be missed.

Grade: B+


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