Moonrise Kingdom | Movie review
Wes Anderson refines his style in a tale of young love.
While wags complain that Wes Anderson’s films resemble the work of a precocious child, it’s hard to deny something magical happens whenever he takes on the subject of youth. Rushmore has become a modern classic of coming-of-age cinema; The Royal Tenenbaums watches as bonds formed as children are tested and cemented during adulthood.
Even by those films’ standards, though, Moonrise Kingdom feels like a breakthrough—at once the apex and refinement of the director’s pop-up style. The plot is simplicity: 12-year-old Cub Scout Sam (Jared Gilman) falls for same-aged misfit Suzy (Kara Hayward). Together they run away on a New England island in 1965, following his daring, Shawshank-like escape from a summer camp. Parts of the film suggest a My First Badlands, driven by Alexandre Desplat’s spiky xylophone and filled with moments of unpredictable violence, discovery and melancholy.
Anderson generously cedes center stage to the two newcomers, both sensational. Using the music of British composer Benjamin Britten as a motif (in a touch only this filmmaker would devise, Sam and Suzy meet during a production of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde), the director orchestrates his movie in a truly symphonic style. The supporting cast members—including a relaxed Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton sporting a pillbox hat and Bob Balaban delivering weather updates—function almost as instruments in an ensemble, each chiming in with a particular comic note. Shooting on Super 16, often in graceful tracking shots, Anderson has also never made a movie as visually fluid as this one; you’d need several viewings to take in all the sight gags. Dense with invention at 93 minutes, Moonrise Kingdom has an alchemical hilarity it’s difficult to explain or reduce. That’s enough to wear down the defenses of a wavering fan—indeed, of even the most jaded adult.