I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea – when I’m not watching copious amounts of television, I’m watching copious amounts of movies. The thing is that I review films as part of my job, and after writing two movie reviews a week, I guess I don’t always want to rehash it for a blog post. But, in the case of Moonrise Kingdom, I’m pretty much content to talk about it constantly.
This is probably my favourite movie of the year so far. I admit that I’m one of those people who believes Wes Anderson can do no wrong. I love his distinct style, his attention to detail, his characters, dialogue and plot. I think he’s great at balancing genuinely funny material with darker themes, and he’s at his best in Moonrise Kingdom.
I think I liked it so much because I felt like it really “got” what kids are like. The plot is about Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two 12-year-olds who become pen pals and make a plan to run away. They’re both pretty miserable because…do you remember being 12? When you’re 12, adults control most aspects of your life, but you’re old enough to realize adults don’t necessarily know what they’re doing, so everything is generally horrible.
Suzy’s dealing with parents (played by Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) who have marital issues, plus she found out they’re reading books about dealing with troubled children. She’s pretty sure she’s the troubled child. Sam has more serious issues, as an orphan with a foster family who isn’t overly concerned with his well-being. Now he’s at scout camp with a troop that doesn’t appreciate his particular brand of solemn weirdness.
So the kids run away (though they’re on an island, so they can’t get THAT far) pursued by Suzy’s parents, a scout master (Edward Norton) and the local sheriff (Bruce Willis). They take themselves very seriously, in the way children take themselves very seriously, and believe they can survive on their own with Sam’s wilderness skills, Suzy’s suitcase of books and their beautiful, adorable love for one another.
Everything about this film is so charming. The dialogue is sincere, and often really, really funny. It’s set in the ’60s, which means awesome vintage-looking sets and costumes. Until I watched this, I didn’t realize that my dream in life is to dress like a pre-teen from 1965.
Also, the two lead kids are SO WONDERFUL. This was the first film for both of them, and they were just perfect. The supporting cast of adults is great too, but it’s really easy for child actors to be grating and terrible, and these two were not, so they really stand out.
I’m sure people who hate Anderson’s other films will think Moonrise Kingdom too quirky or whimsical or twee or whatever it is that they hate about his other films (because it IS all those things, but I love those things!) but I swear, it’s also poignant and heartwarming and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So, you know, watch it!