If quirkiness had a human form, it would be Wes Anderson.
The auteur director has a distinct style which outright rejects the norms of many films today, drawing on influences from ‘70s films and his own wacky imagination. Like many of Anderson’s films, his newest one, “Moonrise Kingdom,” is irreverent and downright strange.
The movie, set on an island off of New England in the 1960s, tells the story of two young lovers who run away together, leaving their small town in a state of frenzy. While the adults of the town frantically send out one search party after another, the two lovers, Sam and Suzy (played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), nonchalantly embark on a camping trip to a small cove they call the Moonrise Kingdom.
The movie is an exercise in deadpan dialogue and piercing stares. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a delightful departure from the contrived emotion of many of today’s films, choosing instead to just tell it how it is.
But beneath the robotic actions and facial expressions, there is a subtle interplay of emotions, especially with the adults of the film.
The all-star cast, including Edward Norton (“Stone”), Bruce Willis (“Red”), Frances McDormand (“Burn After Reading”) and Bill Murray (“Fantastic Mr. Fox”), all do an excellent job of playing desperately unhappy people who hide their repressed depression beneath a veneer of childish bickering and incompetence. However, they only play supporting roles to the children, many of whom act wise beyond their years because their parents can’t.
Sam and Suzy, both clinically depressed and slightly unhinged children, are able to connect through their shared and unique viewpoint of the world. They’re outcasts among their families, their friends and their town.
So they embark on “adventures” and read storybooks to each other, in a sort of yearning for a better, fantastical world, a theme very prevalent in Anderson’s films.
Yet despite their wish for a different world, they still act more mature than the adults who are unable to handle their current reality. Their relationship is more than just an innocent, adorable romance; it is a story of two similarly broken souls.
The mature behavior of the children is partly used for comedic effect, especially the Khaki Scouts troop that Sam was a part of. They act a lot like soldiers, speaking in a language that far exceeds their age group and showing much more of an understanding for Sam and Suzy’s predicament than the rest of the town.
However, the actors are just players in a film that is driven by the whims of the camera. The cinematography is gorgeous, even though the movie looks like it’s been doused in sepia tones. Anderson makes great use of long takes and mobile camerawork, playing with split screen and odd zoom effects.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is simply a fun movie to watch, even if you can’t enjoy the strange deadpan behavior of the characters or the increasingly ridiculous situations they find themselves in.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is one of Anderson’s finest films, making an undeniably delightful movie that even a mainstream audience can enjoy, despite the wacky characters and circumstances. It is escapism at its finest and a breath of fresh air from the deluge of blockbusters that dominate the box office.