MOONRISE KINGDOM is one of the best movies this summer –or any other. Filmmaker Wes Anderson has once again assembled a brilliant cast and turned his ironic yet earnest lens on one summer, mid 1960′s, in the life of two 12 year-olds who fall in love and run away on an island off New England. The film captures the romance and mystery of adolescence– its absurdity, tenderness, brutality, and hilarious flailings in the attempt to make sense of it all. Somehow Anderson captures the unadorned truth, even though his films are extraordinarily stylish — visually, aurally, and orally.
MOONRISE KINGDOM opens on a rainy day with a shot that pans the cross section of a home and its inhabitants–the Bishop family. We might be peering into a dollhouse, and we see the people inside as both large and small–unique and universal. Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” is playing on the victrola and we understand Anderson is deconstructing this story into its separate parts, in preparation for orchestrating the drama ahead.
On the top floor, SUZY (Kara Hayward) peers out from her house through eyes heavy with blue shadow and binoculars, and sees her mom (Frances McDormand) and the police chief (Bruce Willis) who seem more than acquaintances, while her dad (Bill Murray) obliviously reads the paper and chops things down. SUZY soon spies the young man with whom she is planning an escape. He is Sam a bespectacled, raccoon-hat wearing “Khaki Scout” on the lam from his troop, with chain-smoking scoutmaster (Edward Norton) in hot pursuit.
The kids run away together and find themselves in perfect sync. She brings a suitcase full of books and a kitten. He smokes a corncob pipe and takes an inventory. Together they mimic adult life, but it’s sweeter, guileless; they speak plainly to each other– about his bed wetting and her still developing bosom. They share an argument and a kiss, then move on while the rest of the world– including a prim social services matron (Tilda Swinton) tries to catch them.
But lightning strikes, and a great flood ensues, along with magic and heroism and young love; it’s a little bit Truffaut, a little bit Tempest, and it’s as refreshing and potent as moonrise on a secret inlet.
See MOONRISE KINGDOM before it disappears from theater near you.