Moonrise Kingdom | Film review
Writer-director Wes Anderson is known for creating the kind of quirky characters, comical dialogue and plot twists that would appeal to young audiences. But, as with Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, his latest adventure, Moonrise Kingdom, is fraught with a few dark shadows of violence and melancholy that threaten, but never spoil, the film’s twee world.
Amid the myriad vintage charms of the film’s 1965 New England setting, 12-year-old Khaki Scout Sam (Jared Gilman) conspires to run away with fellow troubled misfit Suzy (Kara Hayward). We learn it was love at first sight when the two met a year earlier at a small-town production of Noye’s Fluddle, a kids’ opera by Benjamin Britten. The meet-cute’s setting is one of Anderson’s many gags: Britten's work accounts for much of the film’s soundtrack. It’s not long before Suzy’s father (Bill Murray) and mother (Frances McDormand), along with her mother's sheriff paramour (Bruce Willis), Sam’s Scout Master (Edward Norton) and troupe—as well as a social services agent (Tilda Swnton), who threatens shock therapy—are in hot pursuit.
The rest of the plot evolves as a frantic, concentrated version of Anderson’s usual style: The pace is faster, the characters more eccentric, the uniforms fraught with a greater sense of false conformity, and the stunts increasingly fantastical as the narrative unfolds. The unfortunate fate of the troupe’s canine mascot and Suzy’s unexpected violence take the story on a dark turn, while an outlandish lightening storm and its ensuing tsunami and explosions push the boundaries between realism and magic—a line Anderson seems to enjoy experimenting with throughout the film.
While kids will enjoy the story's sense of freedom and adventure, themes of domestic inertia, unexpected bloodshed and infidelity—the latter somewhat innocently expressed through shared cigarettes and pecks on the cheek—make Moonrise Kingdom a better fit for teens or precocious tweens (keep in mind that the film is rated PG-13). At the same time, themes of bullying, boredom and alienation will strike a chord with anyone who survived middle school.
Moonrise Kingdom opens June 1. It's rated PG-13 and has a running time of 93 minutes.