Sometimes I forget how exciting the wilderness was as a child. I have fond memories of running along windy grassy hill tops in the Falkland Islands, where I spent five years of my childhood. Children’s literature is usually devoted to adventure and freedom. Many Enid Blyton novels are evidence of this.Moonrise Kingdom is a story of such adventure. Of course, this is a Wes Anderson film and not a Blyton novel. Instead of sipping ginger beer, the two main characters in Anderson’s charming adventure story spend their time catching fish and piercing their ears before swiftly turning to the prospect of marriage. Moonrise Kingdom takes a delightful look at the seriousness so many of us approached our childhoods with. At the time, those romances were everything and, in our own eyes, we were all grown up. Anderson’s craftsmanship and charming script reminds us of how, from our perspective, we were adults; back then, we knew everything. When two young lovers run away together a desperate search for them begins. Several friendly, familiar faces of the American indie film are present throughout Moonrise Kingdom. Frances McDormand and Bill Murray play the parents of the female protagonist. They are as pleasant as ever, both underplaying how great they really are. Bruce Willis put a smile on my face as the slightly useless local policeman, as did Edward Norton who plays an even more useless scout master. Tilda Swinton’s brief but eccentric screen time is very pleasurable. Anderson is great at choosing actors who he knows we just love to see on the screen.
However, it doesn’t matter how good any of the above actors are in Moonrise Kingdom because this film belongs entirely to Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward; both appearing in their debut film. The actor and actress, playing the determined young lovers, have so much character and sincerity which comes down partly to script, partly to direction but largely to their own talent and you can’t help but be reminded of the performance Anderson got from Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore. Similarly to Schwartzman’s earlier character, these runaways, Suzy and Sam, approach life with a certainty and a confidence. They are literal, blunt and endearing. Anderson understands these characters so well that you can’t help but assume he related to his actors too. Moonrise Kingdom is visually bright and beautiful. Swarming with romantic pastel tones and crisp definition, this film, and its universe, are being viewed through the eyes of these children. As much as this is a love story it is also a story of betrayal, hatred and vendettas, mainly between several scout cubs. Placing children in such mature scenarios works as perfectly here as it does in any of Anderson’s other films. There is as much of The Royal Tenenbaums inMoonrise Kingdom as there is Rushmore. Themes of family, love and abandonment are reminiscent of Anderson’s eloquent and eccentric family drama. Maybe it is the inspiration and present of Anderson’s two greatest films within Moonrise Kingdom that makes it work so well as another astute example of Anderson’s specific but unique vision. How well it would stand alone, without our prior knowledge of Anderson’s style, is another issue. Moonrise Kingdom isn’t quite as emotional as The Royal Tenenbaums and it isn’t quite as slick as Rushmore but as far as bronze medallists go, it’s fantastic.
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