“MOONRISE KINGDOM” A TRIBUTE TO THE TIMELESSNESS OF CHILDHOOD
I swear Wes Anderson has a direct line to whatever vague thoughts, dreams, and ambitions I had during my early adolescence. It’s amazing how everything always looked just a little bit bigger back then – and “Moonrise Kingdom” conveys that magical way of looking at the world in a powerfully nostalgic way.
Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” tells the story of quite a few pleasingly quirky characters who exist in the picturesque microcosm of New England islands during 1965. Our primary journey involves the innocent escape of our “main” protagonists, preteen misfits Sam and Suzy. Sam is an orphaned Khaki Scout who is intellectually miles ahead of his peers, Suzy is a preoccupied bookworm who looks through binoculars to connect to the world, and together, they bond in their mutual outsider auras and decide to flee from their boring lives for a few weeks and explore the islands around them. When the two go missing, a variety of the community begins searching for them – including Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton), Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), and Scout Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel). Each brings an implacable piece to this character-driven puzzle that ultimately comes together as the most captivating of musical symphonies (that comparison is so obvious that even the film begins and ends with a symphony).
No one can ever say that Wes Anderson, the innovative director of such visual delights as “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” is lacking in childlike fervor. He provides some of the most exciting character-driven work in his films, and that talent doesn’t take an off-day here. His characters are just as odd and fascinating and delicious as ever. The cinematic precision is astounding. This world, like many of Anderson’s worlds, is off-kilter and instantly recognizable as a work of his. Every scene still radiates with that traditional Anderson signature flair and that frenetic energy quickly becomes contagious, both for the cast and for us as an audience.
Even a crappy movie can become entertaining when you know the actors are having the time of their lives – and this is far from a crappy movie. It’s a match made in cinematic heaven when you have great writing and directing combined with actors having an awesome time playing around together. Edward Norton and Bruce Willis in particular explore some undiscovered areas in their prospective careers, with Norton shining as a simple man with simple tastes who never outgrew his dewy-eyed sense of wonder for life and Willis mining some hilarious subtitles I didn’t even know he had as a doltish police officer who no one really needs. Bill Murray, as always, is a comedic genius of understatement as a father who really doesn’t come across as caring about anything anymore. Everyone is so at ease and relaxed under Anderson’s direction that it’s no wonder why so many people love working with him. Ensembles are often hard to do, yet Anderson gets everyone involved to deliver fantastic performances.
There are numerous ways this movie can procure a strong response from each individual of its audience. The movie is about as open to profound interpretation as “The Tree of Life” or “Inception.” For me, I connected through the children. This movie is way bigger than it seems on the surface for exactly that reason. It not only conveys that point of view – it reminds. It reminds us of all those weird little idiosyncrasies that come back to us from time to time. The first time we really found ourselves fascinated with a member of the opposite sex. That odd sensation of belonging when we first met people who had the same opinions or dreams. The clumsiness of maneuvering around social expectations when you just feel like you’ll never be in a crowd and not stick out as the weird one. Anderson gets what it’s like being a kid where I think most filmmakers have long forgotten. I can’t begin to explain how refreshing it is to realize that.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a fantastical trip down the recesses of our memories regarding early childhood that easily delights with visuals that beguile us and characters that spring from the page with an ease that makes screenwriting look easy. I love the visuals, I love the characters, I love what those characters have to say, and – perhaps most importantly – I love what Anderson has to say. Childhood provided us with a wondrous way of viewing people and life… and nobody ever said growing up means we must forget those lessons of simplicity and awe. Every once in a while, even normality can be beautiful.