Having recently watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, I can feel myself veering into a Wes Anderson kick, and I decided to start that off with my first viewing of Moonrise Kingdom, since it is on Netflix Canada.
The story takes place in New Penzance, in 1965. A small island that remains relatively untouched from the trials and tribulations of the outside world, we are introduced to the usual group of Wes Anderson quirky characters that make all of his stories really click. The central plot revolves around Sam and Suzy, two 12-year-old kids who fall in love, and decide to run away together. This causes a search party to be organized by the adults of the island, a group littered with Anderson favorites: Bill Murray (Suzy’s father), Edward Norton (Sam’s scout master), and even Bruce Willis (the police officer).
The story of Moonrise Kingdom is so great because Anderson is able to give life to such a perfect and nostalgic time of first love. The relationship between not only the adults, but the kids themselves, provide a very enjoyable look back to a more innocent time, when love was unrealistic and fun. The journey of Sam and Suzy is absolutely great, as they move from awkward to great together in a short span of time. As with most Anderson films, Moonrise Kingdom is great to look at, shot with interesting views and colours throughout, providing a somewhat dream-like quality to the formative time in the lives of the kids.
However, the best part of the film belongs to the two young actors that absolutely make this a great film. Sam is played exceptionally well by Jared Gilman, a young man who is able to take Anderson’s dialogue, and absolutely own it. His oddness, and self-awareness at such a young age comes across as deliciously quirky while still remaining honest and true. His counterpart, Suzy, is played by Kara Hayward, a young actress who will surely be on the road to being one of the “next big things” out there. Her performance is absolutely perfect. She is able to humanize the deadpan Suzy, and make her infinitely likable, despite her overreactions and bottled up rage that she is most often able to keep under wraps. Together, Hayward and Gilman create a fantastic on screen duo, and one that we definitely root for as an audience. They are young, they are lost in their respective worlds, and they want escape, and they manage to find it perfectly with one another.
At times, it is a tender, and beautiful, relationship.
Due to the very high reviews across most sites for the film, it is apparent that Moonrise Kingdom has received the accolades it deserves for being an excellent film. It is not entirely different from anything else Anderson has done in his career, but when it comes down to it, he has made another movie that is fun to watch, has some great subtle humour, many nods to his other work, to the point where Anderson definitely needs to be considered in the auteur category of filmmakers, and provides us with a fun and interesting story that will surely keep viewers entertained for the reasonable run time of the film. For fans of his, it is an absolute must-see and a vital part of his growing collection of very good films. For fans of film, it gives us two new actors putting on display their great potential for more good roles in the future, and in Hayward, a possible future star in the industry.