I’ll admit, when I walked in to see Moonrise Kingdom, my excitement was half-hearted despite glowing praise it received from almost everyone around me. Let’s just say that movies about precocious kids have never been my cup of tea, and judging by the trailers, Wes Anderson’s latest was shaping out to be just that. There is, however, always an exception to the rule.
Anderson’s portrayal of the elopement of Sam and Suzy, two young lovers, from their small town is almost reminiscent of Peter Pan in that its path draws that significant dividing line between childhood and adulthood. The degree of precocity displayed by the kids throughout the film is far deeper than that seen in the odd T.V. commercial featuring a son sagely advising his mother to invest in better household products; no, Anderson’s protagonists converse about depression and dance to French records (not to mention French kissing) whilst being pursued across land and water by a group of frazzled adults who are rife with their own problems. Calling the story unorthodox would be an understatement, but Anderson proves that sometimes the most effective portrayals of basic human emotion are to be found within the most unrealistic scenarios.
Newcomers Jared Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy) take on their very complicated characters with admirable skill, giving Sam and Suzy respectively both the angst and the moments of childish innocence that come to seem almost startlingly out of character. Most importantly, they bring the notion that children are wiser than adults to life, as they follow their hearts with a brashness that is lost as one grows up. Naturally, the adults of the town – Suzy’s parents (played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), and Social Services (Tilda Swinton) – comparatively appear very ungraceful and ignorant in indeed. Suddenly the questions we are faced with every day and the overthinking we put ourselves through seem futile in comparison with a child’s simple approach to everything. And to their credit, the star-studded adult cast assume their roles with all of the “un”-grace in the world.
The film’s staccato pace is scored by an equally clipped drum line score and the scenes are almost like a series of tableaux doused with the woozy quality of the stereotypical ‘60s movie (yes, it is set in the ‘60s). All in all, the oddities found in Moonrise Kingdom produce something that is both poignantly touching and shockingly hilarious at the same time. After all, isn’t that what life in a nutshell is?