REVIEW: Moonrise Kingdom
You have to credit director Wes Anderson with having a unique vision, one that is slightly off kilter compared with most of his fellow filmmakers. As a result, his films tend to visually interesting and highly stylized, getting notably quirky performances out of his cast. Moonrise Kingdom, his oddly sweet summer confection, is the latest such offering. He revels in dysfunctional groupings, in this case a family and local community, set in 1965, on the cusp of dramatic changes to society as a whole. This tale features two twelve year olds who run away as a storm looms over New Penzance, an isolated island off the coast of northern New England and has a kid’s book feel to it. In many ways, it reminded me of having fairy tale similarities to the hyper-realized rainbow bright Pushing Daisies.
You laugh at the oddball characters, marvel at the mannered performances from a stellar cast, and find your expectations upended time and again. You root for the kids, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), to find happiness. To them, it’s a love story. He abandons his scout troop and she runs away from home, and you would too given her dazed dad Walt (Bill Murray) and adulterous mother Laura (Frances McDormand).
Sam is an orphan and his foster family doesn’t want him back so it falls to the local sheriff (Bruce Willis) and the scout master (Edward Norton) to mount the hunt. With the storm approaching, things are ratcheted high enough to snag the attention of Scout commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel) and Khaki Scout chaplain Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) along with Social Services (Tilda Swinton); and yeah, that’s the character’s name.
While the storm and the missing children are whipping the adults up into a stylized frenzy, the two kids are innocent, unaware, and wholly devoted to one another. While every adult is flawed and mostly unlikable, the kids are fresh-faced and worthy of rooting for. What’s interesting is watching the effect their unseen devotion to one another is having on the adults as the film progresses. One by one, love transforms (or at least softens) the adults, the authority figures who are thinking of punishment and retribution.
The story is charming and riveting in its simplicity, a testament to Anderson’s skill as a storyteller. The movie is lovingly transferred to Blu-ray so the soft colors, a palette that works so well as an element, are well captured. The audio is also superb.
Amazingly, there are but three three-minute featurettes included on the disc: A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom, Welcome to the Island of New Penzance, and Set Tour with Bill Murray.