“Moonrise Kingdom” Movie Review

     If you’ve seen any of director Wes Anderson’s previous films, than you’ll have an idea of what to expect with his new offering, “Moonrise Kingdom.”  It’s as though Anderson has a knack for creating these mystical parallel worlds which seem to be grounded in reality, yet there is something just slightly off.  Could it be the chosen color palettes that are seemingly composed perfectly in every frame? Speaking of the cinematography, is there a reason Anderson limits his camera movements to tracking shots that move left or right and zooming shots which move to close up and back?  Could it be the choices of subject matter which seem to hark back to our pasts yet still cover themes which are relevant to us today? For his latest, Anderson has the support of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and his regular collaborator, Bill Murray in what is one of the best and most creative films of the year.

     Sam (Jarad Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) have planned a run away of sorts in the woods just outside their New England island town.  Sam is a Scout and is currently attending a summer camp led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and Suzy is dealing with the ongoing drama of her parents dysfunctional family life.  Suzy has discovered her mother, Laura (Frances McDormand), is likely having an affair with the town Police Chief, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), and she doesn’t really seem supportive of her father, Walt (Bill Murray), either.  Sam is an orphan who is about to be sent back to an orphanage as his current foster parents have decided they can’t handle him any longer.

     The year is 1965 and watching the film brings you back to a time when things were so much more simple.  Take for instance what Suzy, who is basically running away from home, decides is important enough to pack into her suitcase.  She brings all of her favorite books, a pair of binoculars, as well as her brother’s 45rpm record player which operates on batteries.  Knowing they will be in the woods, she’s not much of a survivalist, but perhaps this is why she chose Sam to run away with.  Sam is a top notch Scout and has provided everything from food to shelter and even weapons to hunt and rods to fish with.

     The interactions between Sam and Suzy are some of the best scenes in the film, it what is essentially a love story.  When they finally reach their destination, a secluded cove where they believe no one will find them, they strip down to their underwear and swim and after they share their first kiss.  They also use the record player to provide music to dance to in what is one of the most memorable dance sequences in a film since “Napoleon Dynamite”, which by the way may be the last film to remind me of this one aside from Anderson’s other work (“Rushmore”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Darjeeling Unlimited”, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”).  With the two kids missing, the adults in the film move franticly to put together a plan to search for them.

     Edward Norton plays Scout Master Ward deadpan, as if the only thing that matters in the world is scouting.  To say he has his entire Scout camp regimented would be an understatement.  When it comes time to be a part of the search for Sam and Suzy, the Scouts are at first only about their mission, due mostly to the fact they don’t like Sam.  Later in the film, many of the Scouts change sides and ultimately become allies.  In this fantastical world, the kids seem to be more on the ball than the adults are, or at least so they think.  From the two leads to the very last character, it seems Anderson has made sure they all matter as the dialogue and story structure blend seamlessly with the colorful visuals on screen.  If filmmaking is an art form, than Anderson has certainly created a work of art here.

     Perhaps the film’s allure is it helps you remember your childhood and how you viewed the world around you.  Everything was simple and nothing like the world kids live in now.  No doubt each of us at one time or another thought we needed to do the same thing that Sam and Suzy have done.  In “Moonrise Kingdom”, you have the story of two kids who were just looking to get away from what made their lives as they know them so complicated and go to a place where things couldn’t be anymore simple.  Of course the parents ultimately ruin everything, but isn’t that what we all thought when we were younger?  GRADE: A