In a small world, big things can happen: love, heartbreak, adventure.
Wes Anderson’s latest storybook tale “Moonrise Kingdom” takes you on a beautiful journey with two 12 year olds as they run off to a remote inlet. The girl and the boy are very serious — about love, their plans, books, life itself — and often act older than their age. She wears bright blue eyeliner; he puffs on a corncob pipe. You wonder what their hurry is, given that here adulthood, with its quarrels, regrets and anguished pillow talk, can feel as dangerous as the storm that’s hurtling toward the island, ready to blow it all down.
The two young romantics are considered by their parents who now all to well as problem children. Suzy Bishop(Kara Hayward) discovered this when she found a pamphlet atop the fridge; “Coping With a Problem Child.” Surely her angry outburst can be explained as she has three younger brothers. But there is a deeper level to her anger as she struggles with existential despair that fades when she met her match, soul mate and co-conspirator, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) a year prior.
The film opens in the year 1965 shortly before the pair rendezvous in a field. She brings her favourite books and younger brothers’ record player in a suitcase; he brings her flowers and Khaki Scout camping gear and head off on their journey that has a hint of adventure and a touch of French New Wave (filmmaking that started in France in the 1950s, characterized by loosely structured plots and unconventional photographic techniques). There are many dangers along the way but finally there is paradise, in a small whimsical cove, renamed Moonrise Kingdom. There, with a tent, a French pop song and unembarrassed honesty, Sam and Suzy consummate (metaphorically) an enchanted affair with a hilarious de-flowering.
Anderson has directed a series of films since 1996 about characters who, through their harebrained schemes or grand pursuits, transcend the ordinary. This is true in his eighth film “Moonrise Kingdom,” which follows how Suzy and Sam met, wrote, planned, and then went off on their life adventure hurling the quirky adults of New Penzance into a panic. In other words, it’s about how they construct a world parallel to the larger one, carving out an intensely individual space and defining themselves through their shared visions and actions, which means that the movie is also very much about creation as an act of self-creation.
New Penzance Island Police; Mr. Bishop (Bill Murray), Mrs. Bishop (Frances McDormand), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis).
Mr. Anderson’s visual style and narratives are his own. He draws you into his fantastical worlds with beauty and humour, and while it can keep you at somewhat of a distance, this only deepens the story’s emotional power, especially when he lowers the boom, as he always does. The New England coastal island of Penzance where “Moonrise Kingdom” takes place, is firmly set in Wes Anderson-land.
The heightened sense of self-awareness is underscored by exhilarating camera movements that sweep across the Bishop’s house from right to left, left to right, and up and down, and take you on a time and space tour while meeting Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Wonderful Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Mr. Anderson shoots the camp with a moving camera, one that follows Ward with obsessive symmetrical compositions during his morning inspection. Although you can see well into the distance, to the rolling, treed hills that serve as the camp’s backdrop, Mr. Anderson has shot the scene so that the depth of the image has been flattened. This visual compression makes the campsite look something like a page out of a book. It is even more obvious in a long shot of the lighthouse where law officer, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) learns that Sam has been given up by his foster parents because they decided that he is emotionally disturbed.
While their storybook tale has the charms of a fairy tale love and some terrors, they aren’t playing at love. Sam and Suzy are undeniably in love and that is the most honest thing in the world.
Strong recommendation to Wes Anderson’s latest “Moonrise Kingdom” if you’re in the mood for a real love story comedy that will leave an artistic impression that can only be found in Anderson-land.