You know from the first frame of Moonrise Kingdom that you are watching one of Wes Anderson’s movies. They’re not like anyone else’s. The textures are more textured, the children are wise beyond their years, in fact all the characters are just a bit off, but in a good way. I have really enjoyed his previous efforts with Rushmore, The Royal Tannenbaums, even The Fantastic Mr. Fox. And happily, Moonrise Kingdom is his best yet. Funny, sweet and totally entertaining, it is one of those indie gems you just have to see.
Set in the 60s, on an island somewhere in New England, it is the story of a couple of misfit teenagers who run away together and throw the whole island into a state of panic. Played by unknowns, the young couple Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) meet cute, correspond for a bit and then flee to find happiness away from their young troubled lives. Sam is an orphan at a Scout camp, and Suzy is a local girl with some issues of her own, the daughter of a couple (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) who are more comfortable talking about their law cases than dealing with their kids. When Sam disappears from camp and Suzy from home, the local cop (Bruce Willis) is called in to help, and the Scout master (Ed Norton) tries to muster his remaining scouts to form a search party to find the love birds. And the rest is a hoot of a hunt.
With all the star power in the film, it would have been easy to lose focus on the kids, but Anderson is one smart filmmaker and the stars stay in their places, which is great because these two kids are great! The kids in the scout troop are also great little characters and I expect to see a lot more of them all in years to come. What sets Moonrise Kingdom apart though is Anderson’s incredibly quirky film style — his unusual camera work, his surprising use of music, his perfectly understated dialogue. With these skills, he has been able to tell us a story that conveys that first blush of young love without the knowing judgment of age, set against a romp of a chase. Quite a feat and one worth seeing by all (grownups). Chicks will love it for the sweet little love story and the roosters will find the manhunt a load of fun. Fans of his previous films will be very pleased by it, and he may just score a whole new legion of followers. Great movie!!