In Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson successfully combines the tragic, quirky and the cute in what is probably his best film to date and easily one of the best movies of the year. The film seems like a Roald Dahl story alive on screen, but one that Anderson has created all by himself.
Set in 1965, the film introduces us to two 12-year-old kids Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward) who decide to abandon their damaged childhoods and run away from their broken homes to stay on their own little kingdom by the sea. Anderson, with his trademark idiosyncratic darkly comic, yet gently affecting balance takes us through the kids’ backstories, their parents, and a vast array of the people connected to them (Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton). Thrown in is a convenient thunderstorm that might jeopardize the search for the runaway kids and heighten the tension.
There are many, many moments in the film that leave a lasting impression, which only Wes Anderson could come up with - one of which is a hilarious lightening strike, and another where a scout kid delivers a pep talk in a tree house while a section of the house suddenly falls off. The final frame is actually the best in the film, I won't be surprised if posters of this scene make their way to the walls of millions and millions of film buffs' bedrooms.
In the band of precocious kids in cinema, Jared Gilman as Sam Shakusky is a highlight. Complete with glasses and a complete lack of regard for his camp scout master, he is the quintessential orphan who learns that to survive the world he has to adapt to growing up faster than his peers, often at the expense of others. His approach to life is both funny and moving, and Gilman plays it perfectly.
Suzy is a similarly broken, socially rejected kid who would rather leave her home than have her parents constantly lie to her. Hayward is top class and she reminds one of a younger Emma Watson. The huge supporting cast is very strong, blending understated comedy with frank drama. And even though the film is about the two kids, the uncomfortable ‘grownup problems’ are wonderfully played out. Anderson brings every conflicting emotion to the screen with style, making Moonrise Kingdom a strange, cute, forlorn trip to the depths of what it is to be young, muddled, with a crush on someone exactly like you. Not to mention Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful music that serves as your guide to a delightful stroll through the mind of a heartbroken child.
(First published in MiD Day)