The location Moonrise Kingdom in Wes Anderson’s new movie by the same name isn’t instantly recognizable. After the lights have come up, however there is a realization that like Hotel California, it is a destination we all know. At a younger age, we all had these special, secluded places. By embracing these hidden away places, they become a part of our own worlds, in an actual world that still sees us just kids. The prepubescent protagonists in Moonrise Kingdomtake this place to a completely different level.
The young couple, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), are labeled “emotionally disturbed” and “troubled” respectively. To be sure these two are quite different, and their environments aren’t helping them. For Suzy, it is her dysfunctional parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) communicating through a blow horn in their labyrinthine house. For Sam it is being that kid at Khaki Scout Camp (Edward Norton is the Khaki Scout Leader), who has a sash full of merit badges but still just doesn’t fit in. The two team up to organize an escape; by mail.
Sam and Suzy navigate their way to a forgotten part of their island and set up camp. There was never any chance the adults wouldn’t find their well apportioned hideout on the bay, and there was even less chance they would understand the couple’s instant bond. It is the first in a series of crises that challenges the star studded supporting cast to put things right in their own lives.
If redemption is a theme of Wes Anderson movies, so too are his hallmark style and beyond quirky characters – Moonrise Kingdomis no exception. It still has plenty of those geek-gasm moments that catch you off guard with their delightful absurdity, but it feels more mainstream than some of his movies. In his oeuvre there is always a romantic relationship that seems to be at the center of the plot, but this may well be the first proper Wes Anderson romance.
Personally, I hate romance movies, but there are a couple of things going for Moonrise Kingdom right off the bat. The two characters are at that magical age before puberty when they still speak as sincerely as children, and their too serious attempts to imitate the adult world come out all wrong. That is pretty rich material to work with from a comedy point of view. The movie is set in 1965, when it was still possible to be 12 going on 13 instead of 12 going on 17. The innocence of the characters feels authentic.
Moonrise Kingdommay be one of those perfect romance movies precisely for us romance haters – I suspect we can count Wes Anderson (and much of the cast) among our numbers.