Wes Anderson, director of idiosyncratic films such as Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox has created what is perhaps the best film of his career.
While many of his films center on flawed adults and their childish attributes, Moonrise Kingdom focuses on two children who are wise beyond their years.
Set in the 1960s on an island named New Penzance, the film follows two troubled pre-teen lovers, Sam (Jared Gilman), a skilled but unpopular Khaki Scout, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), a bookish girl who is viewed as emotional unstable by her parents. The two meet at a local play production, become pen pals and plan to run away together in search of freedom and adventure.
When the two children are found to be missing, Suzys parents, Walt Bishop (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand) join police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) to search for them before an oncoming storm reaches the island.
The films plot is comparable to the tale of Peter Pan, which helps establish the whimsical and innocent nature of Suzy and Sams love. They run off into the wilderness in an attempt to escape the responsibilities, contradictions and disappointments of adult life. While Sam cant fly, his Khaki Scout training keeps the journey moving smoothly. Suzy reads fantasy books to Sam in the same way Wendy told stories to the Lost Boys.
Suzy, part of a dysfunctional family, associates growing older with becoming like her parents, at one point admitting to wish she was an orphan.
Moonrise Kingdom, the name Suzy and Sam give their new territory, is itself a Neverland.
While in the kingdom, Suzy and Sam are able to talk, dance and love as they please without fearing any complications. The film juxtaposes the childrens freedom with the obligations the adults are dealing with in town.
With Moonrise Kingdom being the first film for actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both 12 years old at the time of filming, its amazing how well they portrayed misfit lovers. The reckless abandon that both actors share during the dance scene accurately represents two people who already have everything they need in life.
Nortons performance in the film overshadows the rest of the adult actors.
With a name that is one letter away from being Scoutmaster Award, Nortons character does everything he can to be a decent leader, but ends up following other authority figures for most of the film. Norton is flawless in playing the idealistic, yet overwhelmed, Scout Master Ward.
The only weak point of the film is in the development of a few of the adult characters.
The audience is shown that Walt and Laura Bishop have a dysfunctional relationship. They are rarely in the same room and sleep in separate beds. Laura speaks to Walt with a megaphone, symbolizing the distance between them. The audience is not shown, however, how Walt and Laura grew apart and is expected to assume they were always this way.
Captain Sharp is regarded as an unintelligent police officer by the locals of the island. While characters refer to him as being slow, the film doesnt really show Sharp acting dull.
Moonrise Kingdom is similar to previous Wes Anderson films in its primary color scheme and perfect homes. With yellows, reds, blues, and khaki browns used throughout the film, the classic Wes Anderson color scheme gave the film a glaze of artificial nostalgia and is excellently executed. The Bishop home looks like it belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting, and its flawlessness contrasts beautifully with the people who live inside.
With tragic realism mixed into innocent bliss, Moonrise Kingdom will leave viewers with a melancholic longing for childhood adventures.